The opening of screening has been described by Turkey's chief negotiator Ali Babacan as "the first concrete step in this historical process", while Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said that Zagreb's "priority in negotiations will be quality, not deadlines". Croatia may join the EU in 2009 and Turkey sometime after 2015.
Science and research (Chapter 25) has been chosen as the first area to be screened, to be followed by education and culture (Chapter 26) on 26 October.
The first stage of the screening process, which is estimated to last for 10-11 months, entails the "analytical examination" of the EU's acquis. During this stage the Commission's experts will brief the Croatian and Turkish teams on the EU's existing body of legislation. The second, bilateral part of the screening process will enable the two countries' negotiating teams to summarise their achievements in adopting and implementing the acquis and to explain how they intend to proceed.
The detailed screening process will be followed by the opening of the 35 negotiating chapters. According to a Commission source, the difficult policy dossiers will be opened early to avoid giving the impression that the negotiations were easy.
For further details, see our overview entitled EU-Turkey negotiations.
In related developments, Germany's chancellor-elect Angela Merkel has reiterated her intention to insist that the EU grant 'privileged partnership' instead of full EU membership to Turkey and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel has said that his country aims to introduce a "permanent protection clause" to indefinitely restrict access by Turkish workers to Austria's labour market once Ankara joins the Union.