Turkish ambassador to France says religion behind Turkey’s troublejo

Turkish ambassador to France says religion behind Turkey’s trouble joining EU

AP Worldstream
Oct 11, 2004

Turkey’s ambassador to France said in an interview published Monday
that his country’s would have “no problem” joining the European Union
if it were Christian and that its Muslim heritage is the real issue
behind the current debate.

“The real motive for this reticence, especially in France, is
religion,” Uluc Ozulker told the daily Le Parisien. “If Turkey were
Christian, there would be no problem. But, voila, we are a Muslim

The ambassador noted that Turkey is a secular state and has been for
more than eight decades since the nation’s founding father, Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, instituted reforms.

Ozulker spoke as debate rose in France over Turkey’s eventual
membership in the European Union, which currently counts 25 members.

President Jacques Chirac reiterated on Sunday that “it is the French
people who will have the last word,” a reference to his plan for
France to hold a referendum on the subject. That could be a potentially
fatal blow to Turkey’s aspirations since EU members must unanimously
approve any nation’s application for membership.

Chirac supports Turkey’s membership but thinks it will take up to 15
years for it to join.

The French parliament is to debate the issue before the EU summit
Dec. 17 when leaders are to finalize an initial approval of membership

Ozulker said Europe “is not a Christian enclave” and Turkey’s joining
the EU “will not denature Europe” despite its some 70 million-strong

“We share the same democratic values as the 25,” he said, adding that
Turkey is already part of the customs union.

Turkey has carried out some needed reforms such as abolishing the
death penalty and cutting back the power of the military in politics.

Asked if Turkey would recognize the Armenian genocide, the ambassador
said that it has yet to be proven.

“It’s up to international and impartial historians to meet and decide,”
he said. “We will accept the results of their work.”