Hard work for EU on Turkish membership

The Greek and British prime ministers agreed yesterday during a meeting in London that the European Union has to work intensively over the next two weeks to make sure that Turkey meets a December 6 deadline in its accession process. Costas Karamanlis and Tony Blair met at 10 Downing Street to discuss the issues of Turkey and Cyprus at the same time that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was indicating that Ankara would not make any effort to meet the deadline that has been set by the Finnish presidency of the EU. Blair did not comment on Turkey’s stance but said that there was much ground to cover before the leaders of the EU’s 25 member states meet at next month’s European Council. «What I suggest is that we work day in and day out over the next couple of weeks to get a way forward because both Britain and Greece share this strategic vision of Turkey’s membership of the European Union,» said the British prime minister. «We should try to create a different atmosphere and a different climate around this negotiation to try and get the outstanding issues resolved which will allow Turkey to move forward but allow the rules of the European Union to be kept,» Blair added. Karamanlis reiterated Greece’s support for Turkish membership of the EU but repeated the need for Ankara to meet the obligations it has signed up to. He agreed with Blair that member states have plenty of negotiating to do before the crucial meeting next month. «The exact response of the European Union is a matter of close cooperation and consideration with all our European partners,» said Karamanlis. Privately, there was a slight gap between the perception of the two leaders on how to deal with the Turkish issue, sources said. If Ankara continues to be slow in meeting its accession targets, Britain appears to be in favor of freezing the chapter referring to the extension of its customs union. If Turkey meets this condition, it would have to open its harbors and airports to Cypriot vessels and airplanes so this has proved a stumbling block for the Turkish government. Greece and Britain also seem to differ on the time frame that Turkey should be given to meet its obligations. However, sources said that the Greek side was pleased with the talks.

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