Associated Press Worldstream
September 30, 2005 Friday 8:53 AM Eastern Time

Chaos ahead of membership talks underscore hesitations about letting
Turkey into EU

by CONSTANT BRAND; Associated Press Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium

In Austria, a far-right party has plastered walls with the slogan
"Vienna must not become Istanbul!" Polls show that not one EU country
has a majority who support Turkey's membership bid. Turks themselves
are wondering if it's all worth the effort.

As chaos swirls over last-minute obstacles set up by Austria,
Turkey's hopes of one day joining the EU - or even of starting
negotiations Monday as planned - are increasingly in doubt.

The opening ceremony in Luxembourg - replete with champagne toasts,
handshakes and a celebratory dinner - has been a moment Turkey has
coveted for over four decades. But Austria's sudden insistence that
the EU offer Turkey a lesser partnership instead of full membership
has thrown the process into disarray.

Diplomats were scrambling to achieve a breakthrough Friday, as Turkey
threatened to keep its delegation home until it saw a document
outlining exactly what it would be negotiating for.

The Austrian position may reflect a growing resistance on the
continent to welcoming a poor, mainly Muslim nation whose population
is soon set to overtake the 80 million of Europe's largest nation,
Germany.

"I don't think Turkey should join the EU. There's the religion - they
still are quite fanatic - and I don't think Turkey is European
enough. It's more Asian," said Martin Maikisch, a 23-year-old
bookkeeper from the small eastern Austrian town of Guessing.

In London, 42-year-old zoologist Dave Clarke was worried about
extending Europe's borders indefinitely, saying: "I have nothing
against Turkey per se, but the EU has to decide how far it extends.
There has got to be a limit."

Recent surveys across Europe have found a majority of Europeans
oppose Turkish membership. An EU survey published this week found
only 10 percent of Austrians support Turkey's membership, while
support across the 25-nation bloc stood at just 35 percent.

For EU nations struggling with high unemployment and worried they
might have to scuttle time-honored social protections, Turkey was
always going to be a hard sell. But the rejections by France and the
Netherlands of the draft EU constitution have put Europeans in an
even more inward-looking mood.

The stinging repudiations in May and June were largely seen as a cry
of alarm about the bloc's rapid expansion; they have even called into
question of membership for Romania and Bulgaria, which are expected
to join in 2007.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Danish media this
week that the EU had to heed public concerns. "My overall conclusion
is that we must lower the pace and consolidate the EU," he said.

Advocates of Turkish membership argue that welcoming Turkey would
send a positive signal to the Muslim world and strengthen a crucial
security alliance as Europe confronts the problem of terrorism on its
own soil. The European deadlock threatens to alienate Islamic nations
- fueling bitterness and suspicions that the West isn't willing to
accept Muslims on equal footing.

Turkish newspapers reflected growing anxiety that the EU is about to
break its word. Daily Sabah newspaper devoted its entire front page
Friday to "a historic warning" to EU leaders.

"Does the EU realize that it is playing with fire," wrote daily
Milliyet columnist Hasan Cemal. "There is no end to the dynamites
being thrown" on Turkey's EU path. "They think that the Turkish
public opinion is a stone of patience."

Even if negotiations open on Monday, they will be tough: The EU has
made clear the talks offer "no guarantee" of success and they are
likely to continue for up to 15 years.

Cyprus has raised threats of blocking the talks once they start if
Turkey does not move quickly to recognize the island during the
talks. Nicosia grudgingly backed off from demands earlier this month
that Turkey recognize the EU member before the start of negotiations.

The European Parliament this week added new demands that Turkey
recognize the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks at the beginning
of the 20th century as genocide during the talks. And France - where
polls show deep resistance to Turkish membership - has vowed to hold
a referendum on Turkey's bid if negotiations begin.

"Evidently there are cold-feet," said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey
specialist at London's Chatham House think-tank. But he warned that
by rejecting Turkey, the EU "would lose all influence over the
Turkish reforms that Turkey is undergoing at the present."