Turkey and the EU begin membership talks

4th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 October 2005, BERLIN/LUXEMBOURG - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomed Tuesday the European Union moves to launch membership negotiations with Turkey.

4 October 2005

BERLIN/LUXEMBOURG  - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomed Tuesday the European Union moves to launch membership negotiations with Turkey.

"With it the European Union (E.U.) honours a promise which was given to Turkey more than forty years ago", Schroeder said.

A Turkey which shows Islam and European values coming together in harmony means an enormous increase in stability and security for Europe, he said.

Turkey and the E.U. early Tuesday started landmark talks that could make the secular but predominantly Muslim country a member of the 25-nation bloc within 10 to 15 years.

As E.U. ministers began talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted that Ankara must continue efforts at political reform.

Gul arrived in Luxembourg only minutes after the midnight Monday deadline for the formal launch of the long-awaited talks.

Speaking for the British E.U. presidency, Straw said that Ankara must strengthen the independence of its judiciary, raise standards for cultural and human rights, continue efforts to curb the political clout of the military and improve conditions for the country's Kurdish minority.

Negotiations expected to last up to 15 years will be "rigorous and challenging", Straw cautioned.

He added that the final decision on whether the E.U. eventually opens its doors to Turkey will depend on unanimous agreement by all 25 E.U. states.

The start of talks with Turkey followed two days of intense internal E.U. bickering over Ankara's terms of entry, with Austria finally dropping demands that Turkey be offered only a privileged partnership, short of full membership.

Both Turkey and the E.U. earlier described the launch of negotiations as a historic move with far-reaching strategic implications.

Turkey is the first predominantly Muslim country - albeit with an officially secular state - considered eligible for membership in the elite 25-nation club.

"This is a truly historic day for the E.U. and the whole international community," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters.

Underlining Turkey's central role in European security, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, "Europe has won today."

"The common option for an alliance of civilizations has crystallized," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan said in Ankara.

He said that the success of the talks depends largely on Turkey itself and stressed that his country's goal remains full E.U. membership.

"Turkey's contribution will be important for the E.U.," Gul said before leaving Ankara. "My hope for the future is that Turkey, the E.U. and the whole world will benefit from this."

Turkey had warned that it would not agree to open talks if only offered a 'privileged partnership' with the European Union.

The final negotiating guidelines underlined that Turkish entry would depend on the Union's capacity to 'absorb' new members.

If Ankara could not take on E.U. obligations, "It must be ensured that Turkey is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond," the text said.

Copyright DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news

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