Turkey gets a date for EU talks

Following intense haggling in Brussels yesterday, European Union leaders gave Turkey an October 3, 2005 date for the launch of open-ended accession talks – which, however, will offer Ankara no guaranteed outcome. The fiercest negotiations concerned Turkey’s relations with EU member Cyprus, which Turkey invaded in 1974. It still occupies a third of the island. Under strong pressure to offer some form of diplomatic recognition on the spot – even in a roundabout way – to Cyprus, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused steadfastly, threatening at one point yesterday to abandon the talks. Eventually, Turkey promised to sign a protocol extending its EU customs deal to the 10 new states that joined on May 1, including Cyprus, before October 3. The full text of the summit conclusions said the European Council «welcomed the declaration of Turkey that ‘the Turkish government confirms that it is ready to sign the Protocol… prior to the actual start of the accession negotiations and after reaching agreement on and finalizing the adaptations which are necessary in view of the current membership of the European Union.’» Greece, Cyprus and Turkey voiced various degrees of satisfaction. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told a press conference that Greece «did very well.» «We achieved all our objectives,» he said, adding that Athens’s main concerns focused on Turkey’s behavior toward Greece, the establishment of an EU monitoring program for Turkey, prevention of the free movement within the EU of Turkish nationals, a commitment by Turkey to respect its citizens’ human and religious rights, and securing Turkey’s commitment to improve its relations with Cyprus. «I believe in Turkey’s European prospects, as this will render the country a better neighbor for us,» Karamanlis said. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he was «satisfied with the result.» «An immediate establishment of diplomatic relations would have been better,» he added. «But we must be realistic.» Erdogan described the Cyprus deal as a «technical procedure» that did not constitute recognition. In Athens, opposition leader George Papandreou criticized the deal, which he said failed to secure Greek interests. Terms for start of negotiations as set out by Europe’s leaders – In a written declaration offered to the EU, the Turkish government said it was «ready» to sign a protocol expanding Turkey’s 1963 association accord with Brussels to the 10 new member states, including Cyprus, before next October. – The EU underlined «the need for (an) unequivocal commitment to good-neighborly relations» from Turkey. «In this connection, it reaffirmed its view that unresolved disputes having repercussions on the accession process should if necessary be brought to the International Court of Justice for settlement,» the summit text said. It also «welcomed the improvement in Turkey’s relations with its neighbors.» – Turkey cannot hope to join for at least a decade. – EU leaders said «the shared objective of the negotiations is accession» by Turkey. But the talks are «an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.» On the other hand, should the negotiations fail, the EU must ensure that Turkey «is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond.» – The EU said the negotiations could be broken off in «case of a serious and persistent breach» of fundamental EU values such as «liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.» For the talks to be suspended, there must be a recommendation from the EU’s executive Commission or from one-third of member states. The whole EU would then decide on the matter, with a qualified majority required to break them off. – Seeking to allay fears of waves of cheap Turkish workers flooding Europe’s labor market, the EU retained the right to impose measures including «permanent safeguard» clauses in any accession accord. – As with the free movement of people, Turkey is not guaranteed to benefit from full EU largesse in terms of subsidies for its infrastructure development or agriculture.(AFP)