Turkey, EU see ‘new spring’ as membership talks resume after chill

Turkey has resumed talks to gain entry into the European Union after a 40-month freeze, as both sides hail potential 'turning point' in its stalled bid to join the EU club.

BRUSSELS // Turkey yesterday resumed talks to gain entry into the European Union after a 40-month freeze, with both sides hailing a potential “turning point” in its stalled bid to join the EU club.

“This is only a beginning,” said Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, after officially opening negotiations on chapter 22, one of 35 sets of rules and standards that EU candidates must satisfy before joining the 28-member bloc.

Calling for negotiations to be a speeded up, the EU’s enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said two more chapters on rights and freedoms, and justice and security – chapters 23 and 24 – could be opened “very hopefully much sooner than in three-and-a-half years”.

“We need to strengthen our engagement,” he said.

Mr Bagis quipped in reply: “Stefan, we’re ready not only to get engaged but also to get married.”

Chapter 22, on regional development, is the 14th chapter opened with Turkey since it began membership talks in 2005, but so far only one has been completed.

In contrast, Croatia began talks at the same time and became the EU’s newest member in July this year.

Democratic reforms in Turkey and its key role as neighbour to Syria in global efforts to avoid crisis in the Middle East have helped move forward Ankara’s drawn-out campaign to prise open the EU door, however.

In June, the EU agreed to resume the talks but then postponed them for several months due to the Turkish government’s harsh crackdown against protesters in May and June.

Negotiations broke down three years ago because of Turkey’s long-standing territorial dispute with Cyprus, a member of the bloc since 2004, as well as opposition from major powers France and Germany.

But both sides were upbeat at a news conference yesterday. Citing a Turkish saying that there cannot be a spring with only one flower, Mr Bagis said: “We hope this is the beginning to ensure a new spring.”

* Agence France-Presse

Published: November 5, 2013 04:00 AM


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