France fails to unblock Croatia, Turkey's EU talks

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The French EU Presidency has been putting substantial effort into overcoming Slovenia's opposition to opening new chapters of EU accession talks with Croatia over a border dispute. But his mediation attempts proved inconclusive.

EU member Slovenia is using its veto power to prevent its neighbour Croatia from opening nine out of ten negotiating chapters on offer during an intergovernmental conference to be held tomorrow (19 December). 

Similarly, Cyprus is seen as blocking the opening of one out of two chapters with Turkey. But a Cyprus diplomat denied his country would block the opening of two negotiations chapters with Ankara.

Croatia hopes to finish accession talks in 2009 in preparation for EU accession in 2010. At the EU summit last Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy even announced that a deal to satisfy Irish demands ahead of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would be included in Croatia's accession treaty as an "Irish protocol" (EurActiv 12/12/08). 

Slovenia is blocking the negotiations over a border dispute, while in the other case, Cyprus is accusing Turkey of harassing Cypriot research ships in an area of its oceanic shelf earmarked for oil and gas exploration. 

"The French Presidency made mediation efforts for weeks, day by day. We have proposed solutions, but unfortunately, these have not been conclusive. And the Slovenian Prime Minister [Borut Pahor] stated that his country would only sanction the opening of one chapter and the closing of three," French Presidency spokesperson Marine de Carne told EurActiv. 

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has repeatedly called for bilateral issues to be negotiated outside the EU accession framework (EurActiv 21/11/08). 

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