4 October 2004
BERLIN – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the European Union was poised to open talks aimed at making Turkey a full member, but he cautioned negotiations would take “a long time.”
Schroeder said after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that a European Commission report due on 6 October on Turkey’s accession discussions would be “positive.”
European Union leaders will then make a final decision on starting talks with Turkey at their 17 December summit in Brussels.
“I … believe the EU will agree to open talks with Turkey,” said Schroeder underlining his support of Turkish membership while noting that any decision had to be made unanimously by all 25 EU member states.
But Schroeder warned there was no fast track for Turkey to join the EU club.
“The negotiations will be complicated and take a long time,” he said without setting out any timetable.
Earlier Sunday, Erdogan said he was confident of a green light for membership talks, but cautioned it might take until 2019 for Ankara to join the bloc.
In a speech to business leaders, Erdogan said he expected the European Commission report to recommend accession talks with Turkey.
“Whether it will take five, 10 or 15 years cannot be said in advance,” Erdogan noted.
EU leaders say Ankara will not join before 2015, but have hesitated to name a target accession date.
In apparent criticism of French President Jacques Chirac, who this week called for a referendum on Turkish EU membership, Erdgoan complained that “one should not raise unnecessary alarm” over Turkey joining the bloc.
Erdogan acknowledged that much needed to be done to get Turkey into shape for joining the EU and he noted it was far easier for his government to amend the constitution and pass new laws than to actually implement reforms and “change the mentality of the people”.
The Turkish leader insisted it was vital to view the E.U. as more than a mere economic bloc.
“If we see the EU as a community of values … Turkish membership is urgently needed because it would represent a coming together of civilizations,” said Erdogan.
In a separate interview with the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, Erdogan said that Turkish negotiations with the EU were being closely watched by the 1.3 billion Muslims throughout the world.
“A positive result of talks would have a huge psychological impact – Turkey would be an ideal bridge between the civilizations,” he said, adding: “This is about globalising peace.”
Schroeder agreed and said Erdogan’s reforms were strongly in Europe’s interest because they represented a non-fundamentalist Islam which was linked to Europe’s own enlightenment.
“Under the leadership of the prime minister, Turkey has become an anchor of stability in the region,” Schroeder said.
A democratic Turkey would be an example for the rest of the Moslem world and bolster European security, said Schroeder who warned that those seeking to trigger a new “struggle between cultures” were acting in a highly dangerous manner.
Erdogan dismissed fears raised by some that EU membership would lead to a flood of immigrants from poorer regions of Turkey flocking to western Europe.
On the contrary, he said EU membership would fuel foreign investment in Turkey and boost the economy which would prompt many Turks currently living in Europe to return home.
At present, 6 million Turks live in the EU with the biggest community in Germany numbering 2.5 million of which about 700,000 have taken up German citizenship, Erdogan said.
Asked about reports of continued torture in Turkey, Erdogan said: “I want to stress that there is neither systematic nor unsystematic torture in Turkey.”
Erdogan added he supported “zero tolerance” on torture and that any reported cases would be prosecuted.
Erdogan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were being awarded Germany’s prestigious “Quadriga Prize” in a ceremony later Sunday.
But according to a German press report, EU leaders will likely impose an unprecedented “emergency brake” on membership negotiations with Turkey which would allow talks to be cancelled at any time if Ankara starts backsliding on reforms.
Officials said the measure will be recommended by European Commission enlargement czar Guenter Verheugen in a report Wednesday which will recommend the EU begin membership talks with Turkey, Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper said.
The paper said such an clause has never been used in the EU’s past enlargement negotiations and is being demanded for Turkey in case Erdogan falters in reform moves.
Leaders of the 25 EU nations will decide at their 17 December summit in Brussels on whether to formally launch accession negotiations with Turkey.
Erdogan said at the weekend it might take until 2019 for Turkey to actually be admitted as a full EU member. dpa lm ms
Subject: German news