ISTANBUL — THE ``gentle'' rebuff by the European Community to a 32-month-old Turkish application for full membership has not changed most Turks' belief that their place is in Europe and in the Community. There is a wide consensus among official and nonofficial circles here that the EC's stand, announced last week, should not discourage Turkey from pursuing efforts to become part of the Community. In fact, they say, Turkey's role may become more important as change sweeps across the European continent.
The European Commission in Brussels has decided that negotiations on Turkey's membership in the European Community should not start before 1993. The commission cited the incompatibility of Turkey's present economic, political, and social conditions with the EC standards and the EC's internal problems regarding the integration goals set for 1992.
The report advises that, in the meantime, the EC and Turkey develop economic ties through the existing association treaty. It also reaffirms Turkey's right of ``eligibility to become a member'' of the Community. The Council of Ministers will discuss the Commission's recommendations in the spring and make a final decision late in 1990.
In Turkey, reaction to the EC response has been moderate, in part because of the report's conciliatory wording. President Turgut Ozal, the driving force behind Turkey's bid for EC membership, pointed out that Turkey was ``recognized as a European country'' and that its ``right for membership was confirmed.''
Ali Bozer, the minister of state in charge of European affairs emphasized that the ``doors have not been closed'' and that Turkey now waits on the Council of Ministers' decision to set the date for negotiations.
Opposition leaders have criticized the Turkish government more than the EC over the denial of membership. Erdal Inonu, the social-democratic leader, and Suleyman Demirel, the conservative leader, blamed the present administration for the decision. Mr. Demirel said it was the government's poor economic and social policies that caused the EC rebuff, but added, ``We must not get emotional, lose faith, and turn our backs to the Community.'' Mr. Inonu called the report's recommendations ``understandable.''
Many Turks believe that the recent events in East Europe will help Turkey's aspiration to be part of Europe. ``Changing conditions in Europe are taking a course in our favor. We shall have a larger role to play in this newly emerging Europe,'' says Prof. Haluk Kabalioglu, director of the Institute for European Affairs of Marmara University here.
``Without these events, an EC rebuff would have been very disappointing and discouraging indeed,'' says Prof. Erol Manisali of the European and Middle East Research Center. ``But now we should not worry about waiting until 1993. These events [in Eastern Europe] will fundamentally change the EC structures.''
Turkey could play a more active role in an expanded European Community that may emerge in the next decade, concluded Turkish ambassadors at a meeting with the Foreign Minister in Vienna 10 days ago.
If NATO's scope and strategy becomes more political - as advocated by United States' Secretary of State James Baker III - encouraging the West to deal more effectively with regional problems, this would be very much in line with Turkey's intents and policy, the diplomats concluded. Turkey is a member of NATO.
Tugay Ozceri, undersecretary for foreign affairs, said Turkey would follow a ``multidimensional'' foreign policy, expanding its relations with Eastern European countries that would carry weight in a future expanded Europe. Turkey would also support the idea of a larger European ``house,'' Mr. Ozceri said, together with the new Baker concept of ``Atlanticism.