EU summit 'on track' to setTurkish entry talks date
13 December 2004 , BRUSSELS - The European Union is on course to take a decision later this week on starting membership talks with Turkey, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Monday. "We are on the right track," Fischer told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. "What we have to do is decide on opening negotiations in the light of progress made by Turkey," Fischer said. Asked to comment on demands by German and French conservative politicians that Turkey should be offered
13 December 2004
BRUSSELS - The European Union is on course to take a decision later this week on starting membership talks with Turkey, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Monday.
"We are on the right track," Fischer told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
"What we have to do is decide on opening negotiations in the light of progress made by Turkey," Fischer said.
Asked to comment on demands by German and French conservative politicians that Turkey should be offered a special relationship rather than full-fledged EU entry, Fischer underlined that the goal of the exercise was to decide on Ankara's accession to the bloc.
"This is in the interest of all of us," he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot also said the 25-nation bloc was working on bringing Turkey into the EU fold.
"Turkey is a candidate country so accession is the objective of negotiations," Bot said. The Netherlands is current president of the EU.
Queried on a new opinion poll showing that a solid majority of French and German citizens are against Turkey joining the EU, Bot said the decision on whether to open accession talks with Turkey would be taken by the bloc's leaders.
According to the poll, published in France's Le Figaro newspaper, two of three French respondents and 55 percent of Germans said they were opposed to Ankara becoming an EU member.
On the other hand, people in Italy (49 percent for, 24 percent against), Britain (41 percent for, 30 percent against) and especially Spain (65 percent for) said they were in favour of Turkish EU membership.
EU foreign ministers are studying the latest draft of the final statement, expected to set a date for starting membership talks with Ankara, to be issued by EU leaders at a 16-17 December summit.
Governments in the 25-nation bloc are still discussing demands that Turkey should meet additional conditions in its 40-year old drive to join the EU.
Among these are demands that Ankara must recognize the government of (Greek) Cyprus, accept a permanent cap on labour migration and accept that negotiations could be suspended if reforms stall.
A draft statement on Turkey drawn up by the Dutch EU presidency leaves it up to leaders to agree on the start date for the negotiations.
The Dutch government is hoping that leaders will adopt the wording on negotiations favoured by the European Commission which said in October that negotiations would be "an open-ended process."
The debate on the pros and cons of Turkish accession is getting fiercer ahead of the summit.
France, Austria and Denmark are insisting that the EU statement should include a reference to a fallback option of offering Turkey a special relationship if accession talks fail.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Britain's Tony Blair along with the leaders of Spain and Italy remain firmly in favour of Turkish membership, however.
Separately, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain are set to meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani for talks on giving Teheran trade, technology and security benefits in return for a hoped-for permanent freeze in uranium enrichment activities.
The meeting follows last month's deal between the three EU countries and Teheran on a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment which was endorsed in Vienna on November 29 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The international nuclear watchdog decided as a result that it would not take the issue to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions against Iran.
But outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell warned in Brussels last week that Washington continued to be sceptical on Iran's nuclear ambitions, fearing that the Islamic Republic is building a secret nuclear weapons programme.
Subject: German news