EU Commission verdict on Turkey set for Dec.

16th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

16 November 2006, Brussels (dpa) - The European Commission will give its verdict on whether to continue or suspend European Union membership negotiations with Turkey on December 6, EU diplomats said Monday. The recommendation by the commission, the EU's executive body, will then be discussed by the bloc's leaders at a summit in Brussels on December 14, who have the final say on the issue. In EU talks in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier warned against an escalation of the

16 November 2006

Brussels (dpa) - The European Commission will give its verdict on whether to continue or suspend European Union membership negotiations with Turkey on December 6, EU diplomats said Monday.

The recommendation by the commission, the EU's executive body, will then be discussed by the bloc's leaders at a summit in Brussels on December 14, who have the final say on the issue.

In EU talks in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier warned against an escalation of the EU's dispute with Turkey over Ankara's refusal to normalize relations with Cyprus.

Steinmeier said Germany was strongly backing current efforts by the Finnish EU presidency to forge a compromise deal allowing Turkey to open its ports to Cypriot vessels.

"We want a compromise in order to avoid an escalation at the beginning of the year," said Steinmeier.

Germany will take over the EU presidency from Finland on January 1, 2007. Diplomats in Berlin have often said they do not want the dispute with Turkey to cast a shadow over their presidency of the 25- nation bloc.

Echoing similar concerns, several EU ministers Monday urged Turkey to meet the bloc's demands for progress in normalizing relations with Cyprus ahead of a mid-December meeting of EU leaders.

"We hope that there is an agreement in the Turkey-Cyprus issue before the December summit," said Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot.

But EU chief diplomat Javier Solana admitted Ankara had yet to comply with European demands that it open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.

There had been "no encouraging sign" from Turkey at the moment, said Solana.

Highlighting the EU's concerns over flagging political reforms in Turkey, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he was worried about "stagnation" in the country's reform process.

"We are all keen on making progress in the Cyprus issue," said Asselborn.

Finland is struggling to hammer out a compromise deal under which the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta would be opened for trade with the EU in return for a move by Ankara to allow Greek Cypriot ships into its harbours.

Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus which entered the EU as part of the bloc's 2004 "big bang" expansion.

Ankara has long argued that it will only comply with EU demands once the bloc ends its current economic boycott of the Turkish part of Cyprus.

Asselborn said the EU could not abandon Turkey because of its "strategic importance" to the 25-nation bloc. "But Turkey must also know that there is a lot of work lying ahead," he added.

The European Commission last week unveiled a downbeat assessment of Turkey's human rights and reform situation and gave Ankara a mid- December deadline to meet EU requirements.

DPA

Subject: German news

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