Resentful Turkey spurns 26-nation European summit

LONDON (AP) — A 26-country summit opening today was dreamed up as a way to make Turkey feel better about being left out of European Union expansion. Turkey, still miffed, wants no part of it.
So leaders of the 15 EU nations and 11 countries seeking membership instead will spend a day talking about the environment and crime. They may also discuss the crisis in the Serb province of Kosovo.
EU leaders rejected Turkey’s membership application at a summit in December, saying Ankara was not ready politically or economically and still had serious human rights problems. But they offered to keep working on economic relations.
The summit tapped Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus to begin membership negotiations this spring and offered preparatory talks to Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, considered unready for the fast track.
Turkey didn’t even make the list of the unready.
Ankara acknowledges it cannot meet all membership criteria now but it can’t understand why the EU is cold-shouldering a neighbor that has always been a loyal NATO ally.
Turkish officials say privately they believe it has less to do with economics and politics and more to do with it being a Muslim country and fears that Turkish immigrants would flood Western Europe.
To keep Ankara close, the EU leaders created the London conference as a forum where EU members and aspirants — the ins, the outs and the really far out — could gather and talk. Turkey refused.
Turkish leaders hope the EU will recognize reverse course at its next summit in Cardiff, Wales, in June — although Turkish diplomats acknowledge privately that is unrealistic.