NEWS

Erdogan says he hopes new pontiff will ease stance on Turkey’s EU bid

ANKARA (AFP) – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that he hopes the new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, will soften his stiff opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, as the media unanimously declared him a foe of this predominantly Muslim nation. «He has voiced such views (against Turkey’s EU membership) as his personal opinion in the past, but his rhetoric may change from now on,» Erdogan told reporters. «Responsibilities make for different situations. I hope to see such a change in the future because this post, this responsibility, requires it,» he said. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has argued that allowing Turkey to join the EU would be «a huge mistake» that would run «counter to history.» Erdogan also sought to play down the pope’s influence on Turkey’s EU prospects, saying the Vatican is not part of the European bloc. «The decision-making mechanism regarding our EU process is different. The countries that will make the decision are different,» he said. The Turkish press also gave a cold welcome to the new head of the Catholic Church. Under almost identical headlines, newspapers highlighted Ratzinger’s opposition to Turkey’s EU membership and reminded their readers of his harsh words against Turkey in the past. «The new pope is an opponent of Turkey,» the mass-selling daily Sabah said on its front page, while the liberal Radikal grumbled, «He was Turkey’s last choice.» The popular daily Vatan quoted Ratzinger as saying Turkey should become an ally not of Europe but of Arab countries and declared him an opponent of dialogue between Christianity and Islam.