Reinfeldt offers suppport to Turkish counterpart

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday voiced support for Turkey's ruling party, saying a looming court hearing on whether the party should be banned could slow the Turkish bid for EU membership.

Reinfeldt offers suppport to Turkish counterpart

“In Sweden it would be very strange if it was not the voters who through elections determined who ran the country, but instead trial processes,” Reinfeldt said at a joint press conference in Stockholm with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His comment came two days after Turkey’s top judicial body, the Constitutional Court, decided it would hear a case to ban the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) on charges of seeking to undermine the country’s secular regime.

Reinfeldt, a strong supporter of Turkish membership in the European Union, said he and Erdogan had “discussed AKP’s broad support in Turkey … during the last elections … which is one of the conditions for driving the EU process forward.”

“We are very worried that this (the trial process) might be something that could slow the tempo (of the membership drive) and lessen the possibility of pushing the process forward,” he said.

“Sweden will continue voicing the opinion that the European Union should expand and that Turkey has its place there. It’s good for Turkey, good for Europe,” he said, insisting “it is important not to build a new wall” in Europe.

Erdogan, on a three-day trip to Stockholm, meanwhile thanked Sweden for its support.

“Sweden understands Turkey’s position when it comes to the EU membership talks,” he said, adding he was looking forward to the second half of 2009 when the Scandinavian country would take over the rotating EU presidency.

“I believe this will be a great opportunity for Turkey to cover greater distance in the membership talks,” he said.

Erdogan refused to comment on the Constitutional Court’s decision to hear the case on whether to ban his party, saying only “I hope the end result will be good and favourable.

Earlier Wednesday, Erdogan told an audience at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm that despite the court case his party would continue doing “what we should do … maintain democratic and political stability for our country.”