BRUSSELS, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on Friday declared that Turkey was not a European country and should be barred entry to the European Union.
"Turkey's capital is not in Europe, 95 percent of its population lives outside Europe, it is not a European country," the man charged with drawing up a EU constitution, told the French newspaper Le Monde.
Underlining his opposition to Turkish membership of the EU, Giscard d'Estaing said that letting non-European countries join the 15-member club would be "the end of the European Union."
"The day after you open negotiations with Turkey, you would have a Moroccan demand (for membership of the union,)" said the 76-year-old politician.
Giscard d'Estaing, who presented the first draft of a future EU Constitution last week, added that many countries had ulterior motives in promoting Turkish membership of the EU.
"Those who have pushed enlargement most strongly in the direction of Turkey are the enemies of the European Union," he said, in a thinly veiled reference to Britain.
The United States has also been an enthusiastic supporter of Turkish membership of the union and has repeatedly pressed the EU to give the predominantly Muslim country an entry date.
Turkey applied to join the Western European trade bloc 15 years ago and officially became a candidate country in 1999. However, EU leaders have refused to draw up a timetable for Turkish membership, citing human rights abuses and military control of the judiciary as obstacles to entry.
Giscard d'Estaing's comments, which come less than a week after a moderate Islamic party became the largest political force in Ankara, are certain to stir up the debate on the future borders of the EU after its next eastward expansion.
Ten central and eastern European countries are expected to receive the green light to join the bloc in 2004 at a summit of EU leaders in Denmark next month. Two other former communist countries -- Bulgaria and Romania -- are scheduled to become members in 2007.
The former French president said he was "struck by the poverty of the enlargement debate" in Europe and accused EU leaders of adopting a two-faced attitude to Ankara.
"We have always used ambiguous language with Turkish leaders because the majority of the Council of Ministers is against Turkish membership, but we have never said it to them," he said.
Giscard d'Estaing's comments, which are due to be published in France's most prestigious paper Saturday, provoked howls of protest from supporters of Turkey's candidacy.
The European Commission said it rejected the constitutional expert's remarks and considered Ankara's bid to join the European Union a "good thing."
Referring to the recent constitutional changes in Turkey, which have lead to the abolishment of the death penalty and a partial lifting of the ban on non-Turkish languages, commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said the country had made "more progress in the last year than in the last 50 years."
Turkish sources also denounced Giscard d'Estaing's controversial comments.
"More than 10 million Turks live in the European part of Turkey, which is more than the total population of many current EU members" a senior Turkish diplomat told United Press International.
"If we are talking geography, where's Cyprus?" asked the diplomat, referring to the divided Mediterranean island state that is expected to receive the nod for EU membership next month.
"Anyway, Europe is not something geographical. It is a union of common values," added the official.