EU tables tough roadmap for Turkey entry talks
29 June 2005, BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Wednesday approved tough conditions for opening European Union membership talks with Turkey as senior officials said Ankara's long-standing bid to join the 25-nation club may still end in failure.
29 June 2005
BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Wednesday approved tough conditions for opening European Union membership talks with Turkey as senior officials said Ankara's long-standing bid to join the 25-nation club may still end in failure.
"The shared objective of the negotiations is accession," E.U. enlargement chief Olli Rehn told reporters.
But the entry talks would be open-ended, with no guarantees that Turkey would be a full-fledged E.U. member at the end of negotiations, expected to last until 2014, he cautioned.
"If Turkey is not in a position to assume in full all the obligations of membership, it must be ensured that Turkey is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond", Rehn said.
The document, containing the main principles which will guide E.U. negotiators as they begin the daunting task of preparing Turkey to join the bloc, must be approved unanimously by all E.U. states for talks to open as scheduled on October 3.
The Commission said Ankara would have to implement all the political reforms it has promised and must also normalise relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
Any serious and persistent breach of the principles of democracy and human rights could lead to a suspension of negotiations, it warned.
In a sign of the battles ahead, Rehn admitted that the 25-member E.U. Commission had been divided over the mandate, with some demanding that the membership goal be jettisoned in favour of forging a so-called 'privileged partnership' with Ankara.
The Commissioner said the E.U. executive had held a "lively, lengthy and substantial political debate" on the subject.
Turkey's road to membership would be a "long and difficult journey," Rehn said.
But he insisted: "It is in Europe's interest to have a stable, democratic, prosperous Turkey that adopts and implements all E.U. values, policies and standards."
By agreeing to open negotiations with Turkey, the E.U. was recognising Ankara's efforts at reform, he said adding that the talks would give a "strong push to all those who want more democracy and progress in human rights and the rule of law."
The E.U. however had to keep in mind popular concerns about Turkish membership and the Union's own "absorption capacity," he said. Specifically, the E.U. would have to clinch agreement on a financial blueprint as of 2014 and reach agreement on a new constitutional treaty.
E.U. leaders agreed in December last year that Turkey was ready to open long-awaited entry negotiations. But they also warned that the talks would be "open-ended" with no guarantees that they would end in full membership.
In addition, the decision in December also pointed out that "long transition periods, derogations, specific arrangements or permanent safeguard clauses" would be considered in areas such as the free movement of people.
Diplomats predict that some states such as Austria and France may want to make the language tougher to make clear that membership may not be the end result of the negotiations.
The negotiating framework also calls on Ankara to "normalise" relations with Cyprus. Rehn said this would be done once Turkey extends its current customs union with the E.U. to include all new members, including Cyprus.
E.U. entry talks will be broken down into separate chapters covering areas like political reform, agriculture and competition where Ankara will have to bring its national legislation up to E.U. standards.
The Commission recommended that the E.U. and Turkey encourage further contacts between their respective civil societies in order to promote better mutual understanding.
Officials said this was needed because opposition to further E.U. enlargement - and especially to Turkish membership - had played a "big" role in the rejection of the E.U. constitution by French and Dutch voters.
Scepticism about Turkey's membership bid has come from French Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy. "Europe cannot enlarge indefinitely," Sarkozy cautioned recently.
German opposition leader Angela Merkel - widely expected to win German elections expected in autumn - has also said she opposes Turkish entry into the E.U.
However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the European Parliament last week that Europe should be confident enough not to see further enlargement a threat.
Subject: German news