Turkey EU membership talks ‘partially on hold’

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EU foreign ministers have agreed to partially suspend talks with Turkey, to avoid an open crisis at the upcoming EU summit on 14-15 December 2006.

Following long discussions, member states agreed to follow a Commission recommendation to sanction Turkey and suspend talks on eight of 35 chapters. The idea to set a timeline for Turkey to open up trade to Cyprus was dropped.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who currently holds the EU presidency, said that the decision was an encouragement for Turkey and underlined that “nobody questioned the possibility of Turkey joining the EU after it fulfils all the criteria”.

With the Turkey issue off the table, the upcoming EU summit will focus on the overall enlargement strategy and decision-making in justice and home affairs.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the agreement was found thanks to the readiness for compromise, the excellent proposals by the Commission and the engagement of the presidency. He added: "We agreed on a package that gives consideration to all sides."

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said: "We need to take speed out of the process at this juncture. A number of areas of negotiation will have to remain on hold, but nobody will slam doors."
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said she believed that "the EU guarded its credibility and sent a clear message to Turkey". She added: "We would like to have a European Turkey in the EU as a member state but a European Turkey must comply with the European obligations. It’s a positive message for Turkey and provides an opportunity to move on."
Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister 
Yiorgos  Lillikas said: "I hope that after this decision Turkey will take the necessary steps forward in implementing its obligations. This will lead us to the normalisation of its relations with the 25 EU member states."
Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said: "[This decision] sends a signal to Turkey that failure to meet legal obligations cannot remain without consequences but it enables progress in the accession negotiations. This is in the mutual interest of the EU and Turkey."

On 29 November, the Commission recommended the suspension of talks with Turkey for eight of 35 chapters (see EURACTIV, 29 November 2006). This was because Turkey had refused to implement the Ankara Protocol and open its trade to vessels from Cyprus.

On 7 December 2006, Turkey offered to open one port and one airport to trade from Cyprus, in order to send out a positive signal ahead of the member state's decision on whether to suspend the talks (see EURACTIV, 7 December 2006).

  • Member states agreed to review the measures taken in January 2007 under the German EU Presidency.

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