Friday

15th Feb 2019

EU continues to be deadlocked on Turkey

(Updated 15.50 CET) EUOBSERVER / LUXEMBOURG - The opening of historic accession talks with Turkey today remains uncertain as discussions have been complicated by last-minute Turkish objections to wording on participation in international organisations, concerning Cyprus.

Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik told journalists after lunch today that Vienna had given up its demand that the phrase "accession" as a "shared objective" of the negotiations be scrapped in the first paragraph of the negotiating framework.

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The initial demand had reflected Vienna's rejection of full membership for Turkey, instead preferring a loose partnership with Ankara.

The Austrians instead wanted a reference to article 49.2 of the EU Treaty, which states that the "conditions of admission" of a member states are "subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State" - a wording which is more ambiguous and conditional than the clear-cut word "accession".

But Ms Plassnik told reporters this afternoon that "accession had never been in doubt".

Diplomats qualified the Austrian concession as "progress".

However, Vienna is still insisting on a paragraph on the EU's own "absorption capacity" to welcome Turkey as a new member state to be further strengthened.

But any changes on the text of the negotiating framework run the risk of stirring fresh Turkish anger.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul reiterated over the weekend that he would not fly to Luxemburg on Monday to symbollically attend the foreign minister's dinner, if there was no clear text that Ankara could agree upon.

Cyprus

Diplomats commented this afternoon that the Cyprus issue has re-emerged as a prime hurdle for talks to start today.

Ankara is strongly resisting an amendment to a paragraph secured by the Cypriots last week.

The passage states that Turkey is to refrain from blocking EU member states from participating in international organisations.

In Ankara's view, the passage would mean de facto recognition of Cyprus - something which it has so far categorically refused.

UK foreign minister Jack Straw told journalists this morning after bilateral meetings with Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik, as well as with the Greek and Cypriot foreign ministers, that negotiations were "hard and difficult".

He added that he "could not be certain" that an agreement could be reached.

A meeting of the EU task force on Croatia, originally scheduled for 9.30, has been postponed by the presidency until an agreement on Turkey is finalized.

US steps in

According to Reuters, the US, which has long championed Ankara's membership bid, has stepped into the fray.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has reportedly had telephone calls with both Ankara and Vienna to try and unblock the stalemate.

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