EU sets date for membership talks with Turkey

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — On the first day of a two day EU summit, a provisional date of October 3 2005 has been set to begin membership talks with Turkey. However, with the large barriers that must be crossed before Turkish membership is accepted the talks could take as long as 15 years, and membership is far from guaranteed.

The first major hurdle is Turkish recognition of Cyprus. EU leaders, including European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso, have made recognising the island member-state a key pre-requisite for talks, however, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said that he would not bow to demands to recognise the nation citing this as one of four "red lines" he will not cross. Erdogan has said that recognition is entirely dempendent upon the Greek-Cypriots accepting a United Nations peace plan to re-unify the island, which previously they rejected.

The other main stumbling block is possible restrictions on Turkish citizens travelling to and working in other EU nations. There are worries amongst many member-states about the possible impact on labour markets of Turkey's 71 million people joining the EU, a population which is expected to hit 80 million by 2015 and to pass Germany, the EU's current largest member, soon after that.

Should Turkey's application be successful it would extend the boundary of the EU to the borders of Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Turkey would also be the first majority Muslim nation to join the multi-national organisation.