EU Approves Turkey Declaration

(Bloomberg)–European Union governmen’s resolved differences over Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus–keeping alive plans to start Turkish membership talks on Oct. 3.

Representatives from the EU’s 25 nations approved a common response to Turkey’s diplomatic boycott of Cyprus–which joined the bloc last year. The dispute distracted EU attention from a negotiating plan for Turkey that needs the backing of all member nations.

The declaration urges Turkey to ensure free trade with Cyprus while moving toward normal political ties "as soon as possible," according to a copy released today in Brussels by the British government–current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency. The bloc will review progress in 2006–the statement said.

The Turkish government in July said its signature of a protocol extending a European trade accord to Cyprus didn’t amount to recognizing the Mediterranean island–whose northern tier Turkey has occupied since 1974. Signing the protocol was a condition the EU set in December for starting decade-long membership talks.

"Turkey must apply the protocol fully to all EU member states," the statement said. "Recognition of all member states is a necessary component of the accession process. Accordingly–the EU underlines the importance it attaches to the normalization of relations between Turkey and all EU member states–as soon as possible."

Cyprus joined the EU without the Turkish-speaking north because voters in the Greek-speaking southern republic rejected a United Nations-backed unification plan.

CYPRUS PROBLEM

The declaration said EU member states support UN efforts to reach a "comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem" and will review this issue and Turkey’s respect for the trade pact in 2006.

Monday’s accord follows four failed attempts this month to agree on the wording of the declaration. EU ministers are due to endorse it in routine procedure tomorrow–Jonathan Allen–a British government spokesman–said by telephone in Brussels.

The dispute interfered with EU preparations for entry negotiations with Turkey. European governmen’s still must approve a plan covering 35 areas from customs and public procurement to energy and fisheries where Turkey would have to meet the bloc’s regulatory standards.

Turkey–a nation of 72 million people–is counting on the accession talks to attract record foreign investment to its $300 billion economy. It would be one of the two most populous EU nations along with Germany–and become the bloc’s first mainly Muslim member as well as widen the EU’s borders to Iraq.

This prospect has some politicians in nations including France and Germany urging nothing more than a "privileged partnership." The demand may complicate approval of the negotiating plan–which EU diplomats are due to discuss on Sept. 21.

The European Commission–the EU’s executive arm in Brussels–pressed last week for the start of membership talks with Turkey.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said national governmen’s would have dozens of veto chances later and entry negotiations would encourage a settlement of the Cyprus problem as well as economic reforms in Turkey.

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