VIENNA (AFP)–Incoming European Union (EU) leader and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel–known to be skeptical about Turkey’s bid to join the bloc–said that the door remains open to Ankara but warned that talks will be tough.
The large–mostly Muslim state began negotiations with the EU in October and is hoping to begin the first formal talks during Austria’s six-month EU presidency.
"The door remains open–in line with past decisions. But we have got to pay close attention to compliance with European rules," Schuessel told reporters as he launched Austria’s plans for its half-year at the EU helm.
"We cannot overtax Europe," he said.
The start of talks with Turkey in October was almost derailed by Austria’s resistance to offering full EU membership to a huge country which is so different economically–politically–and culturally from the rest of the bloc.
Austria pushed hard for Ankara to be offered something less than full EU membership–such as a "privileged partnership."
Vienna gave its 11th-hour approval only after its EU counterparts agreed to also start talks with Austria’s neighbor Croatia.
The negotiations with Turkey are expected to last at least a decade. But said Schuessel: "It is not helpful to attempt to set out time plans for the end of negotiations. That would not? be realistic in any way."