EU boost to Turkey’s European ambitions
6 October 2004
BRUSSELS – The European Commission on Wednesday said Turkey should be allowed to begin formally negotiating to join the European Union, providing it respects tough conditions.
The ‘qualified yes’ to opening so-called ‘accession talks’ was set out in a long-awaited strategy report presented to the European Parliament in Brussels.
But the report by the EU executive was only a recommendation and must be given a final seal of approval by European leaders at a summit on 17 December.
If EU leaders give the go-ahead, they will also decide on the date to start talks.
In a speech to the European Parliament, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen stressed the opening of negotiations would not mean an automatic yes for Turkey’s membership bid.
Turkey could only expect to join the EU after at least a decade of further reforms, including improvements in its human rights record, he said.
The prospect of a large and poor mainly Muslim country of 70 million people entering the EU has sparked heated debate across Europe.
German public opinion in particular is against the idea of granting Turkey full membership rights.
The leader of the biggest political group in the European Parliament, the centre right European Peoples Party, said he was against Turkey’s membership bid.
German parliamentarian Hans-Gert Poettering argued that a “strategic partnership” between Ankara and the EU would be a better alternative to Union membership.
But this was rejected by a majority of Liberal, Socialist and Green MEPs, who believe the talks should be started but kept open-ended.
The Turkish government has already pushed through a series of punishing legal, economic and political reforms, as well as passing new laws to protect human rights.
In a speech in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had “done its task”.
“Now the EU must do its task. They’re the ones being tested now. If we don’t want a clash of civilisations, but to succeed at reconciliation, Turkey must take its place in the EU,” he said.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news