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Today's Zaman - March 18, 2007 Describing Turkey as one of the European Union's biggest and most important neighbors, a leading UK weekly has cautioned that many Muslims would see failure of Turkey's membership hopes as a rebuff dealt by a Christian club as well as leading to further souring of the West's relations with the Islamic world. A fallout between the EU and Turkey would be disastrous as it would also cause disaffection among the EU's own 15-million-strong Muslim population, many of whom are already hostile to the countries they live in, while it would surely put an end to any hopes of settling the Cyprus problem, The Economist argued. The latest edition of the journal was published with a special coverage titled “Europe's mid-life crisis,” as the EU at the end of this month will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. By far the most successful EU foreign policy has been its own expansion, according to the weekly highlighting that Turkey has made wholesale changes in its politics, economics and society largely to boost its chances of joining. Noting that the very notion of further enlargement is in question due to several reasons, The Economist, nevertheless, also said that “the elephant in the room in all discussions about EU enlargement is Turkey.” Praising Erdogan Winning the elections in 2002, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) soon proved itself “a bigger reformer than the fiercely secular governments that preceded it,” the journal said. “Erdo?an, who became prime minister in March 2003, made it his top priority to get Turkey ready to join the EU. Over the next two years his government passed a huge array of constitutional and judicial reforms to that end. He won his reward in October 2005, when the EU opened membership negotiations with Turkey.” Then listing certain facts considered as negative in Turkey-EU relations up to date, the weekly drew a picture of the current situation. The last fact listed is a December 2006 EU decision that suspended eight of the 35 “chapters” in membership talks with Turkey in a show of punishment for Turkey for its refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cyprus -- because the EU didn't keep its promises for easing isolation of Turkish Cypriots in northern part of the island, Turkey asserts. Bringing to mind that EU Enlargement Commission Olli Rehn offers that the right course is to muddle through the rest of 2007, since there is a case for a breathing-space in EU-Turkish relations ahead of Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, The Economist said: “After that the Turks will have a choice: to resume their reforms, putting their talks back on track towards membership later in the decade, or to turn away from the road towards Europe altogether. The trouble is that the issue may come to a crunch sooner than that.”

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