Far-right parties oppose EU membership for Turkey

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2010 11:23 AM
Far-right parties oppose EU membership for Turkey

Several far-right parties that oppose Turkish membership in the European Union said Saturday they will push for an EU referendum on the subject.

Turkey began accession talks in 2005, but has made little progress, due mostly to a dispute over Cyprus _ an EU member that is divided between the ethnic Greek south and Turkish north.

Austrian Freedom Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache and members of Belgium's nationalist Flemish Interest Party, the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People's Party, among others, said Turkey has no place in Europe and that citizens should be allowed to weigh in on the matter.

"We are all simply of the firm opinion that Europe would go dramatically astray if one starts taking in non-European countries as members," Strache said. "It would be the end of the European Union, it would be the beginning of a Euro-Asian-African union that would stand in complete opposition to the European peace project and therefore can't be allowed to happen."

Strache and others spoke to reporters the sidelines of a two-day meeting aimed at boosting the parties' coordination. It comes amid a recent resurgence of support for right-wing parties across the continent.

Morten Messerschmidt of the Danish People's Party, who also is a member of the European Parliament, said the parties would use the so-called citizens' initiative included in the EU's new Lisbon Treaty to "suggest to have a referendum from Romania to Denmark, from Italy to Finland ... on this topic of Turkish membership in order to consult not only the politically correct establishment within the European Commission but the average European."

Turkish EU membership is a divisive issue in Europe, with leaders of key states such as Germany and France among those expressing reservations about it. But Britain, Italy and Spain have supported the mostly Muslim country's EU bid.

President Barack Obama has urged the EU to embrace Turkey, a member of the Group of 20 and NATO strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, saying its EU membership would broaden and strengthen the continent's foundations.

Washington also considers Turkey an important ally with far-reaching influence stretching from Afghanistan to the Middle East.