Rising to counter weekend criticism of Greece’s support for the Turkish bid to enter the European Union, the government insisted yesterday that Turkey’s accession would «serve the interests of [the Greek] people.» Stalwart critics such as the head of the Church of Greece and former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos expressed varying shades of disapproval on Sunday at the prospect of Turkey following in the footsteps of Cyprus, Malta and the eight former eastern bloc countries welcomed into the EU fold at December’s Copenhagen summit. Even President Costis Stephanopoulos sounded doubtful. But government spokesman Christos Protopappas countered that Turkey is «a large country… whose population in some years may reach 100 million people… but is also plagued by great internal problems, contradictions and instability.» «The question is, what do we want?» he said. «I believe it is better to have as a neighbor a large country that operates along European guidelines, respects human rights, functions as a European state. Once that is established, one can talk of less arms spending, more funds for social policy, more investments and jobs. Greece has every interest in boosting Turkey’s EU prospects.» In a January 8 interview with France’s Le Monde newspaper, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Turkey «has been a great European power since the 16th century.» On Sunday, Archbishop Christodoulos disagreed. «Many say that Turkey has had a strong presence in Europe since the 16th century. But… this presence was steeped in blood, barbarity and pillage,» he said. Pangalos said the government was being «silly» with its «fanatical» support for Ankara’s EU bid, while the president observed that «Turkey left no works of civilization» during the 400-year Ottoman rule in Greece.