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EU decision on Turkey in late 2004, Cyprus not a criterion
2002-12-12 22:48:31

by Rebekah Gregoriades -- Copenhagen, Dec 13 (CNA) -- The European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey "as soon as possible" if the December 2004 European Council decides that the country fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria.

Announcing the decision, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no "direct link" between a decision as regards the Turkish application and the Cyprus question, adding that apart from the fact that the EU would not be in a position to do so, it would also be unfair on Turkey.

He also expressed hope that "a solution to the Cyprus conflict can be found and hopefully it can be found before we conclude the enlargement negotiations at this summit".

In his opening statement, Rasmussen said that "the Presidency has got acceptance of the packages we have presented to the candidate countries, that is these packages will now be the basis for the final negotiations with the candidate countries".

"Tomorrow morning I will have meetings with some of the candidate countries, before we start the meeting in the European Council. I will try to conclude negotiations early morning tomorrow on the basis of the mandate I have got from my colleagues tonight", he added. Rasmussen noted that this is "a very satisfactory result for the Presidency".

He then said that "we have made a decision as far as Turkey is concerned" and that the Turkish government has already been informed.

"First of all, I would like to stress that the EU wants to send a strong and a positive message to Turkey. We acknowledge the progress made in Turkey, we acknowledge the strong determination of the new government to carry through fundamental reforms of the Turkish society", he said.

Rasmussen added that "the reform packages presented in Turkey constitute a major step forward in the fulfilling of the political criteria".

He noted that the EU "intends to strengthen the relations with Turkey in several areas", such as customs union, trade relations and pre-accession assistance.

"In addition to that, we have made the following decision tonight: If the European Council in December 2004 on the basis of the report and the recommendation from the Commission decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the EU will open accession negotiations with Turkey", he announced.

Asked when accession negotiations would begin if the December 2004 decision is positive, the Danish Prime Minister said "the answer is clear, as soon as possible, because we stick to the principle that Turkey can get a date for the start of accession negotiations if and when Turkey fulfils the political criteria".

He summarised saying that "if the European Council in December 2004 decides that Turkey fulfils the political criteria, then accession negotiations can be opened as soon as possible".

Rasmussen noted that "there are certain practical procedures" that have to be followed.

Invited to say what the implications for Cyprus would be this weekend if the European Council will decide in December 2004 on Turkey's application, Rasmussen said: "I do not see any direct link between a decision as regards the Turkish question and the Cyprus solution".

"Seen from a Turkish perspective, it would not be fair to add a solution to the Cyprus conflict as a new political criteria that should be fulfilled. Seen from a European Union perspective, we are not in a position to compromise on the political criteria in exchange for a Cyprus solution. So there is no direct link between the two decisions", he said.

He expressed hope that "a solution to the Cyprus conflict can be found and hopefully it can be found before we conclude the enlargement negotiations at this summit".

Asked if he had asked for a declaration from the "25" to assure that Turkey will be a member if the Copenhagen criteria are met, Rasmussen said "we have not discussed that".

When asked by a reporter about the criteria that say candidate countries should have good relations with their neighbours and if Turkey did not have such a problem as regards Cyprus, the Danish Prime Minister said he would not comment on a "hypothetical question".

"I don't think Turkey will have neighbouring problems as far as Cyprus is concerned and all in all I think Turkey has a responsible government and responsible political leaders and they realise that their relations with the EU will be influenced by the steps taken by the Turkish government, so I don't foresee any problems", he added.

Rasmussen said that in the morning he will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Poland and that he had not yet decided if he would be meeting with others before the European Council convenes into its second day.

He noted that he would definitely be meeting other candidate countries tomorrow but had not yet decided on the time schedule.|

CNA/RG/GP/2002
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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