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Turkey Accuses EU of Having 'Double Standard' for Candidate Countries - 2002-12-09

The leader of Turkey's ruling party has accused the European Union of maintaining a double standard for candidate countries. The charge came after EU leaders indicated Turkey may not be given a date to open entry negotiations at this week's summit in Copenhagen.

After meetings with officials of the Danish EU presidency Monday, Turkish Justice and Development Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan was clearly upset. Until the past few days, it had been widely assumed that at the European Council meeting this week, Turkey would be given a date on which it could begin negotiations on joining the union.

But after a tour of EU capitals, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying Turkey must fulfill all political criteria or at least have a timetable for meeting those criteria before talks on accession can begin.

Mr. Erdogan told reporters he considers that a double standard that is poisoning the EU. He charged that at least six countries that have been given negotiation dates still have not fulfilled all the political criteria.

Turkey has long been a member of NATO, but its efforts to join the European Union have failed, partly because of concerns about its human rights record. Mr. Erdogan said Monday his party is determined to pass two important rights reform packages by the end of this week.

He previously warned that if the EU failed to set a clear date for the beginning of accession talks, Turkey might revise its own plans and carry on in another direction. He gave no indication what that direction might be.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, who met with Mr. Erdogan, said he still considers Turkey a candidate country. "We have made a decision in '99 that Turkey is a candidate country, and that will not be changed. But when they can start the negotiations for accession is a question, and there I can give you no answer. They might be disappointed, they might accept it, but I cannot tell you what the outcome will be," Mr. Moeller said.

He said discussions are going on to find what he called a good solution for Turkey.

At the Copenhagen EU summit beginning Thursday, invitations are expected to be issued to candidate countries Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta. They would become full members in 2004.

Two others, Romania and Bulgaria, are hoping to join by 2007.