Turkey to Get Date for Open – Ended EU Entry Talks

December 15, 2004
Turkey to Get Date for Open – Ended EU Entry Talks
By REUTERS

Filed at 8:40 a.m. ET

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Turkey was on course on Wednesday to
get a date to start open-ended negotiations on European Union
membership as final elements of a compromise package came together on
the eve of a landmark EU summit.

Despite last-minute rhetoric from Ankara and EU politicians most
skeptical about its fitness to join the 25-nation bloc, diplomats said
leaders would agree on Friday to open talks in October or November
2005 with the clear aim of membership.

“It is now time for the European Council to honor its commitment to
Turkey and announce the opening of accession negotiations. A clear
date should be indicated,” EU Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso told the European Parliament.

“We accept that the accession process is open-ended and its outcome
cannot be guaranteed beforehand,” Barroso said.

His comments foreshadowed the expected wording of a summit statement,
framed to assuage opponents of membership for the poor and mostly
Muslim state of 70 million.

The directly elected assembly adopted by 407 votes to 262 a
non-binding resolution urging EU leaders to open talks with Turkey
“without undue delay” and rejected decisively amendments offering a
“special partnership” or refusing full membership.

Lawmakers urged Ankara to continue human rights reforms, negotiate
with Kurdish separatists who renounced violence and recognize mass
killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as “genocide,” something
Turkey adamantly rejects.

“FIRM ANCHORING”

After a 41-year wait to start talks, Turkey could not join the bloc
until 2015 at the earliest. The negotiations will require a
transformation of its economy and society far beyond the political and
human rights reforms already enacted.

Diplomats said the summit statement would add that whatever the
outcome, the EU would keep the strongest possible bond with Turkey,
implying there could be another outcome if it failed to meet EU
standards or chose to go another way.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, one of the strongest skeptics
on Turkish accession, signaled on Wednesday that such wording would
enable him to agree to opening negotiations.

“It has to be in there that the result will come from an open
process, and that this result cannot be guaranteed in advance,”
Schuessel told reporters.

Turkish financial markets, buoyed by Tuesday’s deal with the
International Monetary Fund, have soared in anticipation of a “yes.”
The main Istanbul share index was up 0.47 percent at 23,528.70 in
mid-afternoon trade, near a historic high. The Turkish lira currency
was also firmer, at around 1,412,500 against dollar, after closing at
1,419,000 on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that Turkey would not
recognize EU member Cyprus “directly or indirectly” as long as there
was no final agreement on reuniting the island.

However, a senior Dutch presidency source said Turkey would have to
commit itself on Friday to extend its association agreement with the
EU to cover the 10 new member states, seen as de facto recognition of
Cyprus, although it would not be asked to sign that protocol during
the summit.

Barroso said Turkey would have to recognize Cyprus. “If you want to
become a member of a club, isn’t it normal that you recognize the
other members of that club?”

Turkey recognizes only the breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave in
northern Cyprus. But for the EU and the rest of the world, the Greek
Cypriot government in the south is the sole legitimate representative
of the whole island.

FRENCH, AUSTRIAN SCEPTICISM

Brussels diplomats said Ankara was clearly on board for the deal being
crafted by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose government
holds the EU presidency.

Balkenende told the Dutch parliament he expected a “yes” on Friday
but the negotiations would be a long haul.

Turkey’s supporters, led by Britain and Germany, see a chance to
bridge the divide between Europe and the Islamic world by
incorporating a vibrant Muslim democracy on the hinge of southeast
Europe and the Middle East.

Opponents say the sprawling, largely agrarian state would be too hard
to integrate and the EU would risk “enlarging itself to death” by
extending its borders to Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Erdogan and Gul were due in Brussels on Wednesday for last minute
lobbying before the summit starts on Thursday evening. The official
decision is expected early on Friday afternoon.

French President Jacques Chirac, facing domestic opposition to Turkish
entry, was to go on television on Wednesday night to defend his belief
in Turkey’s long-term European vocation.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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