Shanghai Daily, China
Oct 3 2005

Turkey dares EU to break free from 'Christian club'
2005-10-03 Beijing Time

Turkish nationalists shout during a rally of the Nationalist Movement
Party in Ankara yesterday. Nationalists protested against today's
start of accession talks between Turkey and the European Union. -
Reuters

TURKISH Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that
European leaders must decide whether the EU will rise to challenge of
becoming a global power or remain a "Christian club," as they try to
break a deadlock on starting membership talks with his country.

Meanwhile, Turkey Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said in statements
published yesterday that Turkey was not intent on starting European
Union membership talks at any price - reiterating Ankara's position
that it will never accept new conditions, or any alternatives to full
EU membership.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey, a largely poor country of about 70
million, is scheduled to start long-awaited membership talks today,
but those talks have now been thrown into disarray over Austrian
objections.

European Union foreign ministers were meeting yesterday to plead with
Austria to drop its objection to Turkish membership in an emergency
session. Austria balked at the last minute at opening entry talks
with the predominantly Muslim nation, and has suggested the EU
consider a "privileged partnership" instead.

As EU foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg for the emergency
meeting, Turkish officials _ waiting in Ankara for word on the
outcome of Sunday's talks _ ruled out anything less than full EU
membership.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said European leaders
must decide whether the EU will rise to challenge.

"We are not striving to begin negotiations no matter what, at any
cost," Gul said in an interview published in Yeni Safak newspaper.
"If the problems aren't solved then the negotiations won't begin."

Several countries also have been pushing Turkey to recognize EU
member Cyprus, and the European Parliament called on Turkey this week
to recognize the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks at the
beginning of the 20th century as genocide.

Erdogan, addressing lawmakers of his party at a resort just outside
of Ankara, said Europe was at a historic crossroad.

"Either it will show political maturity and become a global power, or
it will end up a Christian club," he said.

"No EU decision will deviate Turkey from its course" toward further
democracy and reforms, he said. "We will, however, be saddened that a
project for the alliance of civilizations will be harmed."

Erdogan spoke to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel by telephone
on Saturday, telling him that a privileged partnership was not an
option.

After more than 40 years of aspiring to join the European Union,
Turkey feels it is being held hostage on the eve of negotiations by
Austrian leaders using Turkey's EU bid as an issue in upcoming
national elections.

Some 60,000 supporters of an anti-EU ultranationalist party, waving
Turkish and party flags, held a rally in central Ankara yesterday, in
part to protest increasing demands and conditions being forced on
Turkey.

"Prime Minister, the concessions that you have given the EU are
dragging Turkey toward darkness," said Devlet Bahceli, a former
deputy premier and head of the Nationalist Movement Party.