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06 12 05 - > Merkel and Chirac to urge new EU deadline on Turkey
04.12.2006 - 09:24 CET | By Mark Beunderman
France and Germany are demanding a toughening-up of the European Commission- proposed sanctions on Turkey, with president Jacques Chirac and chancellor Angela Merkel set to push for a fresh EU deadline on Ankara to normalise its relations with Cyprus.

Ahead of a meeting with Mr Chirac on Tuesday (5 December), Ms Merkel has proposed that the EU set a 12 to 18-month deadline for Ankara to allow trade from Cyprus if it wants to resume full EU membership talks, according to Germany's Spiegel Online.

The Financial Times adds that the proposal is backed by Mr Chirac, putting Berlin and Paris one step further from London which is set to defend weaker EU sanctions at a key EU foreign ministers meeting on 11 December.

The commission last week proposed suspending the opening of eight chapters of Turkey's 35-strong EU negotiations book with talks on the remaining chapters to continue, in response to Ankara's failure to open its ports to Cypriot shipping before the end of this year as required under a Turkey-EU customs agreement.

But Brussels in its recommendation remained vague on how exactly the frozen parts of Turkey's EU talks could be relaunched, with German media noting that Ms Merkel's idea for a "review clause" would make it harder to get the talks fully back on track as all EU member states would have to agree to this move.

Ms Merkel at a NATO summit in Riga last week already hinted at the review clause idea, saying that it "would mean that the council [EU leaders] would within a timeframe of perhaps 18 months get the possibility to discuss the question how Turkey has proceeded."

A fresh deadline on Turkey was also proposed last week by Cyprus, with its president Tassos Papadopoulos saying "effective pressure...can't exist without a time frame for reassessing Turkey's stance so as to convince Turkey that it should comply or suffer other or further sanctions."

German media say Ms Merkel at last week's NATO summit rallied support for her proposal, with the governments of Cyprus and Greece supporting it and with Austria and the Netherlands also expected to push for a stronger EU line towards Ankara.

At the other end of the political spectrum however are states strongly supportive of Turkey's EU bid like the UK and Sweden, with London finding the commission recommendation "disappointingly tough."

The Finnish EU presidency is trying to forge a consensus on the fate of the Turkey talks at the 11 December foreign ministers meeting, with a gathering of member states' ambassadors to the EU on Thursday expected to reveal deep divisions.

Pessimistic EU diplomats expect the thorny issue will need to be shifted to heads of state and government meeting in Brussels on 14-15 December - a scenario which the Finnish presidency says it wants to avoid.


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