Turkey Eyes Joining European Union: Greece Won't Oppose Its Membership

By Borowiec, Andrew | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Turkey Eyes Joining European Union: Greece Won't Oppose Its Membership


Borowiec, Andrew, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


NICOSIA, Cyprus - Turkey is moving closer to membership in the affluent European Union after Greece and the Greek-speaking portion of Cyprus formally welcomed its candidacy.

With Greek objections removed, the European Union is expected to put Turkey on the list of applicants at its December summit meeting in Finland's capital, Helsinki. Nonetheless major obstacles remain.

They include Turkey's human rights record, its prison conditions, its relentless war on the Kurdish separatists and its military presence in 37 percent of Cypriot territory.

So far the Turks have brushed aside all foreign criticism, refusing to discuss the Kurdish question and considering its army in Cyprus as a protective shield for the island's Turkish-speaking minority.

In the footsteps of improved Greco-Turkish relations, the Cypriot government of President Glafcos Clerides has accepted the idea that Turkey should belong to Europe.

In statements that appear more pragmatic than anything said since the 1974 Turkish invasion, the Greek Cypriot majority decided that Turkey's membership in the European Union might be more beneficial than its exclusion.

"There is a role for Turkey in Europe," said Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou. "We should be very happy to see the Turks in the EU. We prefer a European Turkey to a Turkey of another continent."

The authoritative Athens daily Kathimerini echoed this view, saying "it is in Greece's interest for its neighbor, Turkey, to adapt to European patterns because Turkey's accession to the EU will change the Greco-Turkish dispute from a bilateral problem to a Turkey-EU problem. …

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