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28th Feb 2024

Barroso hopeful of progress on EU-Turkey talks

  • The meeting between Mr Gul (l) and Mr Barroso (r) took place in a "family atmosphere" (Photo: European Commission)

Turkey's accession talks with the EU may move a small step forward before the Czech EU presidency ends in June, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Thursday (26 March).

"We are hoping to open at least two chapters ... during the Czech presidency," Mr Barroso told journalists after meeting Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Brussels.

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Mr Gul's visit was the first ever visit of a Turkish president to the EU commission and it was a "very comprehensive meeting in a family atmosphere," both leaders said at a joint press conference.

"The project of negotiations is moving along with the [final] objective of full membership," Mr Gul said.

Turkey has been an official EU candidate since 1999 and opened accession negotiations with the bloc in 2005.

But only ten chapters of its 35-chapter accession package have been opened so far, with just one successfully closed.

Mr Barroso called on member states to hurry up with opening the energy chapter of the negotiations with Turkey, which is currently being blocked by Cyprus.

Relations between the two countries are tense, as Turkey does not recognise the Greek Cypriot government in the southern part of the divided island and is also the only country to recognise its northern Turkish Cypriot region.

"The commission's position is clear – we should go ahead with this, we should open the chapter on energy. There are still some difficulties in the Council [representing the EU member states], we hope that this question can be solved [during the Czech EU presidency]," he said.

Earlier this month, Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra said opening this chapter would be "a priority" for his country's time at the helm of the EU.

The chapter is seen as particularly important as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier made the bloc nervous by indicating Ankara may reconsider its support for the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline if it is not unblocked shortly.

The Nabucco plan proposes a 3,400 km pipeline from Turkey's eastern border to Austria that would transport up to 31 billion cubic metres of gas per year from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

It is seen by the EU as a key tool to diversify gas supplies, especially in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis earlier this year which saw gas deliveries to several member states interrupted.

Turkey has since softened its position and promised Brussels it would not hinder Nabucco, as it is a "commercial," not a "political" project.

The two other chapters Prague is hoping to open before 30 June cover social policy, employment and taxation.

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