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050930 - Emergency meeting on Turkey scheduled
29.09.2005 - 17:44 CET | By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER/ BRUSSELS- The UK presidency on Thursday announced an emergency meeting of foreign ministers on Turkey's EU membership bid. The meeting is to be held on Sunday - the day before entry talks with Turkey are scheduled to start.

Talks at the ambassadorial level broke down on Thursday (29 October), as Austria continues to block the framework for membership negotiations with Turkey.

The UK presidency has now told foreign ministers to be ready to jet to Luxembourg on Sunday evening - before the official ministers meeting on Monday (3 October) which is supposed to greenlight the start of the accession negotiations.

Austria demands that the first and crucial paragraph of the negotiating framework, setting out the principles of the EU talks with Turkey, be substantially altered - changing the aim of the talks from full membership to a completely open-ended scenario.

This reflects Vienna's rejection of full membership for Turkey, instead preferring a loose partnership with Ankara.

The Austrians have demanded the word "accession" to be scrapped altogether from the first paragraph, and the words "possible alternative bond" inserted elsewhere in the paragraph.

European diplomats commented that the deleting of the word "accession" is impossible, as this would be in breach of the EU leaders' own conclusions last December - stating that the goal of the talks is accession.

On top if this, Turkey has repeatedly said it will walk away from the talks if it gets offered anything less than full accession.

But diplomats also said there is room for manoeuvre for a compromise with the Austrians.

"We might see an additional few words which further stress the open ended nature of the talks, without deleting the word accession", one diplomat said.

He added: "It is unlikely that the Austrians will really veto the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey".

Room for manoeuvre on Croatia
One other possible way for the UK presidency to accommodate the Austrians is to grant concessions on Croatia's EU membership bid, which Austria wants to push through.

The EU recently blocked the start of entry talks with Zagreb following what it considers to be unsatisfactory co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Before the foreign ministers' meeting on Turkey on Monday, the EU's Task Force on Croatia will meet with UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte who will brief it on progress by Zagreb locating the war crimes suspect general Gotovina.

The EU task force notably also comprises the foreign ministers of the current and upcoming EU presidencies - the UK and Austria.

The European Commission has said it will recommend the opening of talks with Croatia "immediately" once Ms Del Ponte reports "full co-operation" with the UN court.

But one diplomatic source said that even in the case of limited progress by Zagreb, a compromise gesture towards the Austrians could be possible in the form of "a decision to take a decision soon".

However, around 12 member states are said to be reluctant to be too lenient on the Croatians, as this would send a wrong message to countries such as Serbia, allegedly also obstructing the capture of war crimes suspects by the Hague UN Court.

One diplomat said: "If we slip now, we will never see Mr [Radko] Mladic in The Hague".
© 2005
Printed from 30.09.2005
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