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EU: Turkey ‘closer and closer’ to EU

Published on 22/04/2009

Prague –Turkey is getting closer to the European Union and talks on its accession should proceed despite divergences over its future membership, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Tuesday.

"The continuing accession negotiations show that Turkey is getting closer and closer to the EU," said Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the EU presidency.

He was speaking to reporters after talks between the EU and Turkey in Prague.

Turkey’s efforts have received a cross look from countries such as Germany and France, but also Greece which has been embroiled in a long-dragging dispute with Turkey over EU member Cyprus.

"Attitudes can change, sometimes we can see them change in the course of our lives," Schwarzenberg added.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country will take over the EU helm from the Czechs on July 1, said that "every single enlargement process has been opposed by some."

But he added that the Turkish accession process was "supported by a vast majority of countries and by a vast majority in the European parliament."

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated he had "always been opposed" to Turkey entering the EU.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan offered a more downbeat assessment.

"We are observing that some of the EU member states have a different idea of what is going to happen at the end of the process," he said.

The talks had not been very productive and risked damaging bilateral relations for no good reason.

Turkey was fully committed to continuing the accession process the country’s reforms to that end had been "more and more satisfactory every year", he said.

"There is strong consensus about the continuation of the whole process, it is a win-win process for the EU and for Turkey, so why don’t we continue it and have a big discussion at the very end?" said Babacan.

Bildt said he had no doubts about the accession process and looked forward to success.

"The EU with Turkey would be stronger, more dynamic… Europe is to overcome the divisions of the past for a better future," he added.

Since it began its formal EU membership talks in October 2005, Turkey has so far only opened 10 of the 35 required chapters.

Eight others have been frozen since 2006 due to Ankara’s refusal to deal normally with the divided island of Cyprus. Another five are being blocked by France.

EU member Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey invaded the island’s northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup to unite the island with Greece.

Schwarzenberg said the issue of Cyprus was crucial for Turkey’s accession. "We expect Turkey to play a positive role in the negotiations between the Turkish and the Greek part of Cyprus," he added.