ECONOMY

Ankara wants only full EU membership

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Turkey’s prime minister said yesterday his country would settle for nothing less than full membership in the European Union, repeating his opposition to suggestions that it accept a partnership offer with the bloc. «Turkey cannot accept any alternative which is going to rule out full membership of the EU,» Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, addressing the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Erdogan, in Sweden for an official visit, also said he could not comment on a legal case that has crystalized a decades-long debate over the role of Islam in the Turkish state. The case has become a lightning rod for opponents of Turkey’s bid to join the EU, who say the country is not committed enough to democracy to join the 27-nation bloc. Turkey’s top court this week said it would hear a case brought by a chief prosecutor against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for allegedly aiming to establish an Islamic state. «This is an ongoing legal procedure and therefore it would not be right for me to make any comments,» Erdogan said. «Our goal is to maintain democratic and political stability.» Turkey has been negotiating to join the EU since 2005 and the Constitutional Court’s decision could further delay the process. Membership talks have already been held back by the continued division of Cyprus, slow progress in EU-mandated reforms and frosty attitudes in EU countries such as France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has suggested Turkey should accept a privileged partnership with the EU, a proposal Erdogan has rejected. «An enlargement that is going to embrace Turkey is not going to undermine the EU, is not going to weaken the EU,» Erdogan said.