EU Slows Turkey’s Membership Talks

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Associated Press)–European Union leaders formally endorsed the decision to partially freeze Turkey’s membership talks at a summit Thursday that focused on how quickly and how far the bloc should expand. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said all 25 leaders "support the decision unanimously" to slow down talks with Turkey over its refusal to honor a pact to open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus. The leaders reiterated that Turkey and other EU hopefuls must comply with EU membership criteria signaling that two years after taking in 10 new, mostly eastern European members, the path to the European Union will become considerably tougher. Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 following a failed coup staged by supporters of union with Greece. Ankara is the only government to recognize the Turkish Cypriot state, but it does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government in the south that led the island into the EU in 2004. With Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU in January, bringing the bloc to 27, many others are questioning whether it’s time to shut the door. Some fear expansion will dilute old members’ influence, and let in too much cheap labor that would cost people in affluent countries jobs, undercut their wages and threaten their cherished social welfare. Other nations, led by Britain, Sweden and Poland, insist the EU must welcome aspiring members. In a draft summit statement, the leaders make it clear that aspiring members Turkey as well as a half-dozen western Balkan nations must meet the EU’s political and economic criteria for membership if they want to join the bloc. "I see a new consensus on enlargement emerging. We understand the need to combine a strategic vision of enlargement … with our capacity to integrate, with the capacity of the EU to act, so that the EU is not weakened by further enlargement but strengthened," Barroso said, adding that the EU must not allow the lowering of standards.

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