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EU leaders give Turkey date, Balkenende to talk with Erdogan on Cyprus
2004-12-17 09:45:55

Brussels, Dec 17 (CNA) -- The European Union decided to open accession talks with Turkey on October 3 next year, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced late Thursday after late night discussions during the European Council working dinner.

He told a press conference that later this evening he would meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss with him the conclusion of tonight’s dinner discussions while European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stressed that the EU leaders have made an offer to Turkey which it must not refuse.

Balkenende said they had a “very interesting working dinner” where they talked about “some very important issues concerning the decision making which will be finalised tomorrow (Friday)” when they will discuss the draft conclusions.

The Dutch Premier and current EU President said “we can start negotiations with Turkey on the basis of the analysis of the Commission that has to do with the implementation of the Copenhagen criteria”. The talks can start on October 3 next year”.

EU leaders, he continued, “also discussed the issue of the open-ended character of the negotiations. What is the goal of negotiations – the goal is accession. This was already indicated in the report of the Commission; there is not a guarantee for an outcome. And if these negotiations will lead to a situation that membership will not be possible, then lets ensure that the candidate state will be anchored in the European circles”, he added.

Balkenende stressed that this is a very important issue because member states “do not have the same position on the question of Turkey”.

He expressed satisfaction that the leaders were able to conclude the wording in paragraph 23 of the draft conclusions.

On Cyprus, he said they discussed it and later this evening he will meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “and tomorrow we will continue talking about this issue”.

“I am satisfied with tonight’s discussions and the conclusions we could draw”, he added.

On his part, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said “tonight, the EU has opened its doors to Turkey and in doing so, it made a balanced offer” which took into consideration Turkey’s legitimate preoccupation as well as those of the EU member states.

Barroso said that he genuinely believes that this is an offer that Turkey should be glad to accept and shows clearly the end goal, that of membership. “It sets a date for starting negotiations, October 3, 2005”, he said.

He congratulated the Presidency for being able to unite all member states around common positions, which will be formalised tomorrow (today), and the heads of state or governments for agreeing a common position. “At such a time, any lesser consideration should be set aside by Turkey, Turkey should accept this very good offer of the EU”, Barroso noted.

To a question by CNA whether the negotiations will lead to the signing of the additional protocol to the Ankara Agreement or a statement by Turkey about signing the protocol, Balkenende said “talking about this issue is relevant. But I want to have a fair play with Mr. Erdogan, and I will not discuss this issue with the media”.

Asked if Erdogan can be convinced to change his mind on Cyprus, Balkenende said “we talked about the issue of Cyprus and relations in Turkey and Cyprus. It is important that we talk about it in a prudent way. And it is not my task at the moment to speculate on what will happen when we have contacts with Mr. Erdogan”.

The Dutch EU President said “we will use this evening to talk about this issue, to clarify our position and we will discuss that with the Prime Minister of Turkey. And if you ask me if a solution can be found, I don’t think it is the right moment to talk about that”.

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