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06 03 29 - Turkey rejects direct link between political criteria, talks
Ankara on Wednesday dismissed any automatic linkage between its accession talks process with the European Union and the bloc's political criteria for membership, as the EU presidency struggles for a deal among member states.

"It is against the philosophy of the negotiating process to establish a direct link between political harmonization and the negotiating process," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nam?k Tan told a weekly press conference on Wednesday. "Negotiations and documents relating to them should deal with the EU acquis."

Tan added that Turkey has made the necessary contacts with EU term president Austria and other member states on the issue.

Some of the EU's member states have proposed in the course of debates at the European Council's Working Group on Enlargement that a reference to the political criteria be made in a letter requesting Ankara to state its negotiating position on the chapter of education and culture, which so far was expected to be one of the easiest among the 35 negotiating chapters.

The issue divided member states with a group of EU countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Greek Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, favoring such a reference in the draft letter, while another group, comprising Britain, Spain, Sweden, Finland and Poland, backed by the European Commission, opposed it.

The Working Group on Enlargement most recently met to discuss the issue on March 17. A planned meeting on March 21 was cancelled because of lack of progress in the presidency's bilateral talks with France on one side and Britain, Spain and others on the other, an EU official said.

Turkey and the European Commission have already completed pre-talks screening on this chapter, which has so far been expected to be one of the easiest among the 35 negotiating chapters.

The commission has also sent a report to the member states on the successful conclusion of the screening and proposed the opening of talks on the education and culture chapter without any condition.

Turkish officials say they have repeatedly asked the commission whether political criteria could pop up in the course of talks on education and culture and say they have been given assurances that this was a technical bchapter.

Two chapters -- one on the judiciary and fundamental rights and the other on justice, freedom and security -- are related to the political criteria.
Turkish officials say such a relationship should not exist in other chapters.

Harmonization with the political criteria and the negotiations are indeed two elements that should go in parallel to each other and the Negotiating Framework

Ankara is concerned that the inclusion of such references in documents like the letter concerned could provide opponents of Turkish entry with endless means to slow down or block Turkey's accession at almost any stage during the process.

The EU norms require the unanimous vote of all member states in the opening and closing of all chapters, giving each state the power to effectively
block the negotiations citing a concern on the level of Turkey's compliance with the political criteria.

EU sources, however, say the accession process is as political as it is technical and proponents of such a reference argue this would be a proper thing to do since it would keep the pressure on the Turkish government to continue with reforms.

Document on science and research presented to EU:

Meanwhile, Turkey has presented to the EU term presidency a document outlining its negotiating position on the chapter of science and research.

Following the EU's finalization of its own negotiating position, the actual talks on this chapter are expected to start in late April or early May.

Turkish officials expect the talks on science and research to be completed in a short time, given the fact that the EU did not have extensive regulations in this field.

The commission's report on the conclusion of the screening process on this chapter, proposing the opening of the talks, was endorsed by the EU's
Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) last month. A letter sent by term president Austria to Ankara then requested Turkey to state its
negotiating position on the chapter.(Turkish Daily News, March 23, 2006)


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