NEWS

Turks insist on 2003 talks

Turkey’s insistence on being given a date for the start of accession talks in 2003 showed that it set its prior expectations so high that it could only be disappointed today. Even Greece’s push for a date in 2004 (rather than 2005 as France and Germany propose), could not satisfy Ankara. «Greece has a very positive attitude toward the need for ties between the EU and Turkey,» PM Costas Simitis said after his meeting with Turkish PM Abdullah Gul. «The Turkish government has taken good, positive steps in the past few weeks with regard to the Copenhagen criteria… So we believe negotiations can begin within 2004.» He added that the Cyprus problem must be solved. Gul repeated his demand «for a fixed date in 2003.» Insistent US lobbying for Turkey drew criticism. «I often say that America is very generous in offering Turkey membership in the EU, but America is not yet a member,» EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said. While EU governments are impressed by the AKP’s political reform program and more cooperative attitude on the Cyprus problem, most diplomats think it has aimed too high in demanding a firm date for starting entry talks in 2003 and failed to prepare Turkish public opinion for a more realistic outcome.