NEWS

Ankara must toe EU line, PM says after EC penalty

The government yesterday reiterated its support for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, on the condition that it fulfills its obligations as a candidate state, after the European Commission recommended a partial suspension of Ankara’s accession talks. «We support Turkey’s European orientation… but Turkey must prove its readiness to embrace the European principles and values that this prospect entails and fulfill obligations which it has undertaken,» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said. The EU’s executive body yesterday decided to freeze negotiations on eight of the 25 policy chapters into which the entry talks are divided until Turkey opens its ports to Cyprus, which is already an EU member state. Karamanlis, speaking from a NATO summit in Riga, described the EC’s proposal as «the basis for further discussion» ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ summit on December 11, which is expected to focus on Turkey’s progress as an EU candidate state. Karamanlis is expected to reiterate this stance tomorrow in talks with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. Yesterday Cypriot government spokesman Christodoulos Pasiardis said that freezing aspects of EU membership talks with Turkey, while allowing discussion to continue in other areas, did not effectively penalize Turkey. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan put a on brave face regarding the EC’s proposal, stressing that it did not amount to a suspension but «a slowdown.» Earlier yesterday he had slammed the move as «unacceptable.» Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed that the EU’s message was a turning point in Turkish-EU relations. «We cannot continue as if nothing has happened. The message is clear to Turkey. We want (Turkey) to be part of the EU. We would like it to be a full member but there is no Europe a la carte,» she said. According to European diplomats in Riga, Austria, Germany and possibly France are likely to adopt the same stance as Greece opposite Turkey. Karamanlis had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac on the sidelines of yesterday’s summit. In a related development yesterday, Greece’s Foreign Ministry announced that a scheduled official visit to Athens on December 7-8 by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul had been postponed as Bakoyannis must attend an extraordinary UN Security Council meeting in New York on the Middle East crisis. «The meeting is postponed, not canceled,» Bakoyannis told reporters on the sidelines of the Riga summit. She added that she had discussed the issue with Gul on Tuesday evening before deciding to postpone the visit.