Turkey Won’t Accept Any New EU Criteria

ISTANBUL (AP)–Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country will not agree to any new conditions for European Union membership–adding that Turkey expects "honest politics" as it begins negotiations to join the bloc.

For EU membership talks to begin–Turkey must recognize Cyprus before the talks open in October–show progress on Kurdish rights–improve the economy and limit the military’s influence in politics. Ankara is also expected to treat ethnic and religious minorities equally and implement penal code reforms.

Still many European voters are balking at letting in the poor–predominantly Muslim country of 70 million people–a decision that would extend the EU’s borders to Iran.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said this week that the bloc should have an open debate about Turkey’s candidacy. The country is scheduled to start membership negotiations with the EU on Oct. 3.

"Turkey is not…renegotiating anything," Erdogan told reporters late Saturday. "If you impose new things on countries from one day to the next–especially at a time when negotiations are about to start–that would not be right," he added. "We are used to honest politics–that’s what we expect and want."

Concerns about Turkey’s membership were highlighted by the recent rejection of the EU’s proposed constitution by French and Dutch voters–many of whom cited Turkey’s bid as the reason they cast ballots against the charter.

Erdogan praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair–who this week urged the EU to continue expanding. Blair warned that shutting the door to new members would give rise to nationalism and xenophobia in Europe.

"In politics–I like those who have a backbone…I don’t like the rest," Erdogan said.

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