Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can go home a happy man: Four decades after it first entered into association with the EU, terms have been agreed under which Ankara will start full membership talks with the European Union next October. The deal in Brussels was reached after tough negotiations with the 25-nation bloc, which insisted Turkey must move towards normalising relations with Cyprus.
Coinciding with this, a general election has just been announced in the Turkish Cypriot enclave to take place in February. The EU backed-off a little from the hyper-sensitive question of Ankara recognising the Greek Cypriot authorities in Nicosia. The European Union agreed yesterday on an offer to open accession negotiations on October 3 next year but it has been made clear that Turkey will be expected to sign an accord which would indirectly give the Republic of Cyprus – an EU member state – recognition before Ankara can start its membership talks. A demand to have the deal initialled during these talks was dropped. Bulgaria and Romania have also made strides: they will sign an accession treaty with the EU in April, with a view to becoming new members in 2007 if they pursue reforms. For Croatia membership talks will begin in April next year, provided the former Yugoslav republic fully co-operates with the UN war crimes tribunal. Zagreb had been hoping for an unconditional date but EU officials want to keep up the pressure in the hunt for a fugitive former general, indicted by the court.