EU opens up to Turkey

After more than 40 years of knocking on the door, Turkey edged closer to being let into the European Union yesterday as foreign ministers, including those of Greece and Cyprus, approved the framework that will guide the accession process between Ankara and the 25-member bloc. Ankara also said it was happy with the content of the document late last night and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul set off to join his counterparts in Luxembourg for the official welcoming ceremony. There were last-minute objections from Ankara to Paragraph 7 of the document, which effectively required Turkey to refrain from preventing any EU member state (including Cyprus) from adhering to international treaties and organizations. Sources indicated that Ankara objected vehemently to this clause. While negotiations were continuing, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Athens had no intention of renegotiating the paragraph in question and sources indicate that Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was equally blunt during talks with his EU counterparts. Another key obstacle, however, was Austria’s insistence that Turkey should be offered something less than full membership of the EU if it did not meet all the conditions. Vienna dropped its demands after yesterday’s negotiations as the text of the framework was altered to a more open-ended statement that «the shared objective of the negotiations is (Turkey’s) accession.» It is thought the prospect of Austria’s close ally Croatia being allowed to enter EU accession talks also eased Vienna’s objections.