EU President says Turkey must sign customs union protocol
by Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Dec 21 (CNA) - Dutch Prime Minister and President of the European Council Jan Peter Balkenende said today that Turkey must sign the protocol expanding its customs union with the EU, including the Republic of Cyprus, before October 3rd, 2005, when Ankara is set to begin accession negotiations.
Speaking at a meeting with the political groups in the European Parliament, during which they assessed the results of last week's EU summit in Brussels, Balkenende said the signing of the protocol was not an official recognition of the Republic of Cyprus but a necessary first step in that direction.
Balkenende added that on December 16 there was an intense dialogue with the Turkish side, which was asking for things other than those in paragraph 19 of the conclusions (which referred to the recognition of Cyprus).
The European Council President said he told Ankara that the protocol must be signed by October 3rd.
He also said ''it would be good if the parties involved would make use of the good offices of the United Nations which Secretary General Kofi Annan last Friday once again put on offer.''
''I would like to express my wholehearted hope that we would be able to make a contribution to resolving the complex so-called Cyprus issue. We need to make sure that the opportunity is available and is made use of to the best possible extent,'' Balkenende added.