The EU-Turkey romance is on the rocks

Los Angeles Times Tracy Wilkinson November 7, 2006

After early promise, the Muslim nation’s membership bid appears headed for limbo. Both sides’ ardor has cooled.

ANKARA, TURKEY — They’re calling it a train crash here, the seemingly inevitable collision between this large Muslim nation and the Europe it has courted for years.

Those gauging Turkey’s once promising program of reforms, aimed at modernizing its democracy and facilitating membership in the European Union, see a troubled landscape: Turkish writers, journalists and even a 93-year-old academic are hauled into court on charges they insulted their country. Military commanders known for staging coups make veiled threats.

Anti-Western nationalism is on the rise, conservative Islam is spreading, and public opinion in favor of joining the EU has plummeted to an all-time low.

At the same time, many in Europe have soured on the prospect of welcoming a poor, officially Muslim country of 70 million people to their 25-nation club.

On Wednesday, the EU will issue its annual progress report. It is expected to sharply criticize Turkey as failing to sufficiently improve human rights, freedom of speech, cultural rights for minority Kurds and civilian control over the military, according to portions that have been leaked to the media.

It now seems likely that Turkey’s EU bid will be put on hold — not formally suspended, but frozen for possibly as long as a year.

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