Senior EU Lawmaker Opposes Turkey’s Membership

BRUSSELS (AFP)–The new head of the biggest political group in the European Parliament opposed Wednesday Turkey’s EU membership bid preferring instead a sort of privileged partnership. "For the moment, personally, I am against it but I do not oppose the negotiations. In any case they are already taking place," said Joseph Daul, head of the conservative European People’s Party (PPE) bloc. Turkey began accession talks with the European Union in October 2005 but the negotiations have been dogged by problems, and parts of the process were frozen last month over Ankara’s trade dispute with EU member Cyprus. "My personal opinion is that neither Europe nor Turkey is ready for its integration into the EU," Daul told reporters after taking over at the PPE’s helm from German lawmaker Hans-Gert Poettering. "I am in support of a very strong privileged accord," he added. EU countries Austria, Germany and some French politicians–as well as Poettering–have also called for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey rather than full membership. When pressed on whether he considered the EU a "Christian club", Daul said: "I am a practicing Catholic… so for me, Christian values are very important." But he said those values also allow people "to live in harmony with everything that happens around us." Turkey is predominantly Muslim and its governing party has Islamic roots but its political system insists on a clear division between the church and the state.

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