Dutch Presidency calls for “honest” decision on Turkey

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said that the EU should not be guided by fear of the Islamic faith when deciding on Turkey’s membership bid.

Outlining the Dutch Presidency's plans, Balkenende told MEPs
in Strasbourg that although many across Europe are troubled by
Turkey's prospective EU membership, the Member States' scheduled
December decision on whether to open accession talks with Ankara
must be based exclusively on Turkey's compliance with the agreed
standards of democracy and human rights.

"We must not allow ourselves to be guided by
fear, for example of Islam", he said, emphasising his opinion that
the problem is not Turkey's identity as a Muslim nation but instead
the "misuse of religion to sow hatred and intolerance and to
oppress women".

The EPP group believes that granting Turkey a
'privileged partner' status would be a reasonable alternative,
while the European Greens voiced their support for Balkenende's
stance. The Socialists also believe that the EU must abide by its
promises made to Turkey in 1999. The Liberals have called for an
"open and frank" debate on the issue.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
has reiterated Germany's support for Turkey's EU bid, stressing
that "putting a conditional 'yes' before Turkey is not even an
issue". In the same vein, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan concluded his talks in France on 21 July by stating that
his country would not accept a conditional opening of accession
talks.

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