The European Union says it will double pre-accession aid to Turkey, but warns that any Turkish invasion into Iraq would jeopardize its future EU candidacy.
Turkey has said it will only send troops to Iraq to aid humanitarian efforts
Turkey is to receive around €1 billion ($1 billion) in aid from Brussels to help Ankara fulfill its EU entry criteria, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.
But the extra funds -- double what Turkey now receives -- and its EU candidacy would be threatened if Ankara intervened in Iraq or held off on pushing through political reforms, the Commission cautioned.
“It would be fatal if the Iraq situation were to lead to the reform process being suspended or even moving backwards,” the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen told reporters at a press conference in Brussels.
“If there was some kind of invasion or crossing the border (into Iraq), this would have serious consequences on relations with the EU,” Verheugen said.
The aid package -- to be paid in €250 million ($268 million), €300 million ($321 million) and €500 million ($536 million) installments between 2004 and 2006 and subject to annual reapproval by the Commission -- is intended to send a clear signal from Brussels that Turkey should not sway from the EU path.
“The requirements we are placing on Turkey are high,” Verheugen said. “The role of the military in Turkey must also comply with the standards of the member states.”Troops stationed at border
Turkish troops patrol the Iraq-Turkey border.
Turkey already has military hardware stationed on its border with Iraq and has said it may send troops into northern Iraq to supplement a 4,000 strong force already stationed there. Turkish officials worry that the Kurdish ethnic population there may seek to establish its own state after the Iraq war, which could destabilize Turkey, which has long clashed with the Kurds.
But in an attempt to quash fears that any Turkish invasion would agitate ethnic tensions in Iraqi-controlled Kurdistan, Turkey’s military commander, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, said on Tuesday that it had “no hidden agenda” on Iraq. Ozkok stressed that if Turkish troops were deployed, it would only be to aid a humanitarian effort in the region. During the 1991 Gulf War, some 500,000 Iraqi Kurds fled to Turkey.Strained relations
Turkey’s relations with the EU are currently ailing. Ankara’s decision to ban the main Kurdish party as well as its poor record on human rights and democracy has not impressed the Commission.
The EU-entry candidate has not yet been given a specific date for membership talks by Brussels and the EU has stressed that Turkey must continue moves to combat the use of torture, grant cultural rights and allow freedom of religion.