LUXEMBOURG–Britain clashed with Germany and Greece Monday after proposing that Turkey be invited to a special London summit for countries wishing to join the European Union.
Speaking at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Luxembourg–Doug Henderson–the minister for Europe–argued "very strongly" that Turkey be included in the conference–to be held under the British EU presidency next February. He said he was convinced that Turkey would make progress toward improving its human rights record and developing its economy–two preconditions of EU membership – only if it was encouraged to do so through closer links with Europe.
But as deep divisions over the EU’s enlargement strategy emerged–Henderson met stiff resistance from his German and Greek counterparts–Klaus Kinkel and Theodoros Pangalos. The two raised questions over the smooth running of the conference–which ministers hope will be opened by the Queen. It had been seen as a potential high point of the six-month British presidency which starts in January.
Germany has a Turkish population of 2.1 million and believes that if Turkey was allowed to join the EU–there would be an even larger influx. It has repeatedly made clear it sees no prospect of Turkish entry. Kinkel insisted another way would have to be found to build Turkish links with the EU. "The way ahead for Turkey is difficult because of its human rights problems–the Kurds and relations with Greece and Cyprus," he said.
Greece used the meeting to repeat a warning that it would block all enlargement talks if Turkey was invited. The Greeks want Turkey to end the division of Cyprus–which it invaded in 1974. The argument highlights the widely differing views between Union member states on how to respond positively to Turkey’s aspiration for EU membership without offending Greece.
Athens will block admission of any new countries into the EU if Turkey is included in accession negotiations. And Turkey says it will absorb northern Cyprus into Turkey if the EU opens talks with the Greek Cypriots as planned next year. Henderson said he believed the best way to tackle the problem and encourage Turkey to improve its human rights record was for Ankara to become "closer to the European Union".
Although there is no question of Turkey being included in detailed negotiations on terms of entry into the EU next year–he said Ankara should be involved in a wider group of countries which would discuss enlargement at the London conference and at annual meetings from then on.
Detailed talks are expected to open next March with six countries–Hungary–Poland–the Czech Republic–Estonia–Slovenia and Cyprus. Others–including Romania–Bulgaria–Latvia–Lithuania and Slovakia–will be invited to the special conferences as a way of showing they have not been excluded. France supports Britain in arguing for Turkey to be included–too.
As the question over Turkey’s involvement remains unanswered–the Luxembourg presidency said it would apply further pressure on Ankara to help to solve the Cyprus problem–which has become entangled in the dispute over enlargement. In a move supported by Britain–foreign ministers decided to dispatch three delegations to Ankara before the end of next month–to try to break the deadlock.