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EU gains for right spark Turkish concerns

  • Story Highlights
  • Turkish government concerned by gains by right-wing parties in EU elections
  • Officials results show big wins for center-right parties across 27-nation bloc
  • In 2005, Turkey launched membership negotiations to join European Union
By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert
CNN
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- From the south-eastern edge of Europe, Turkish government officials expressed concern about the gains by right-wing parties in the European Parliament elections.

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, right, welcomes Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Brussels in Jaunuary.

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, right, welcomes Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Brussels in Jaunuary.

"The tendency in Europe towards the extreme right is worrisome," said Murat Mercan, the chairman of the foreign relations committee in the Turkish parliament and a top-ranking member of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

In 2005, Turkey formally launched membership negotiations to become the first majority Muslim country to join the European Union. But in an interview Monday with CNN, Mercan called the accession talks "very difficult, very complicated, very troubled."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both oppose Turkish membership in the EU.

The leader of Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement [UMP], Xavier Bertrand, declared that the party's candidates for the European Parliament had signed written promises that, if elected, they would reject Turkey's EU bid. The UMP saw significant gains in this month's elections.

Meanwhile, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherland's far-right Party for Freedom, which also won seats in the vote, was quoted last week saying Turkey would not join the European Union, "not in 10 years, not in a million years" because it was a Muslim country.

Turkey's foreign ministry denounced this election campaign rhetoric last week, saying it creates "a distorted and particularly xenophobia-inducing environment for the European electorate."

Reaction in the Turkish press was fairly muted on Monday, though the Milli Gazete newspaper declared that "Nazis came out of the elections in Europe."

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On Saturday, the religious conservative Zaman newspaper wrote: "Turkey-EU relations will be affected negatively in the case of rightist and racist parties strengthening in the EP. There are fears that racist parties who have common animosity against Turkey can reach numbers enough to form a group in the parliament."

According to a recent poll published by Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, 57 percent of Turks surveyed said they still supported Turkish membership in the EU.

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