Turkish General Says EU States Don’t Want Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters)–A senior member of Turkey’s influential military said on Thursday no European Union country sincerely supported Turkey’s ambitions to join the bloc–according to Anatolian news agency.

Military Academies Chief Commander General Nahit Senogul said the EU’s reluctance to guarantee Turkey a say in the decision-making processes of a planned European defense force that will use NATO assets proved a lack of goodwill.

Last month Turkey blocked a basic agreement between NATO and the EU on a planned EU rapid reaction force–saying Ankara would not retain enough control over decisions that could affect its own security and involve its army. "Some EU member countries are prejudiced against Turkey and have always been involved in the counter-Turkey movement," Senogul told a military symposium on Europe.

"Some countries do not actually favor Turkish membership. Some countries instead prefer close cooperation between the EU and Turkey rather than admitting Turkey to the Union," he said citing France and Germany as leading that point of view. "The rest of the countries support Turkish accession only in appearance. It is impossible to name a country that sincerely supports Turkey’s membership of the European Union," he said.

Turkey won candidacy status in 1999 but the EU has laid out a range of political and economic changes it wants to see before Ankara can start membership negotiations. Turkey is due to publish its own EU National Programme–a manifesto of the steps it plans to take–in the coming days. The EU’s Accession Partnership Accord–published late last year–caused anger in Turkey because of references to Cyprus and territorial disputes with Greece in the Aegean.

The army–which has directly or indirectly toppled four governmen’s since 1960–has said it is in favor of EU membership in principle but it balks at concessions it sees as threatening national security.

A key issue for Europe is Turkey’s human rights record and the position of its 12 million Kurds–around 20 percent of the population. Turkey bans broadcasting and education in the Kurdish language on the grounds they could foster separatism. But since the capture of guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999–a 16-year campaign of violence has largely ceased and there has been some discussion of Kurdish language rights. The army has made clear it resists lifting the ban. But the head of the domestic security service MIT caused surprise recently–suggesting Kurdish broadcasting should be sanctioned.

"In the scope of individual rights and liberties within the Accession Partnership Accord–under the headlines ‘cultural rights’–’native language broadcasting’ or ‘education rights’ for our citizens of Kurdish origin…they want our country to be divided," Halil Simsek–another general speaking at the symposium–was quoted as saying by Anatolian news agency.

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