Turkey will probably never join the European Union because of prejudicial attitudes by the bloc's existing members, Ankara's chief EU negotiator said, in what appeared to be the first high-level acknowledgment that its decades-long bid might fail.
Turkey was more likely to negotiate special access to the EU market, like Norway, EU Affairs Minister Egemen Ba??? said, according to an article in London's Telegraph newspaper published on Saturday.
He said the country had suffered from prejudice in both its EU membership aspirations and its recent lost bid to host the Olympics, without naming any countries.
"They should understand that they are not hurting me by putting me on the back burner. They are hurting themselves," said Ba???, according to the Telegraph.
Germany and France have always had concerns about allowing a largely Muslim country of 76 million people into the bloc, fearing that Turkey's cultural differences and its size will make it too difficult to integrate.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble bluntly stated Berlin's opposition in July saying Turkey was not part of Europe.
Turkey became an associate of the bloc in the 1960s but accession talks launched in 2005 got bogged down in a dispute over the divided island of Cyprus, an EU member.
Support for EU membership among the Turkish public fell to 44% this year from 73% in 2004, according to a German Marshall Fund report released this week.
Turkey's relations with the European Economic Community (EEC) date back to 1959. But it took many years, until the Helsinki European Council of December 1999, for the country to obtain the status of a candidate country for EU membership.
The EU opened accession talks with Turkey in October 2005, but a number of stumbling blocks are holding up Ankara's progress, in particular concerning Turkey's relations with Cyprus, human and minority rights and freedom of expression.