European leaders have reached consensus on a proposal to offer Turkey a date for opening membership negotiations with the now 25-nation Union. The Netherlands currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is chairing the summit in Brussels.
“We can start negotiations with Turkey on the basis of the analysis of the Commission that has to do with the implementation of the Copenhaguen criteria. (They) will start on 3 October next year. We also discussed the issue of the open-ended character of the negotiations. What is the goal of negotiation: the goal is accession. As has already been indicated in the report of the European Commission, there is not a guarantee of the outcome.” The EU wants Ankara to recognise the Greek Cypriot government — it has not done so ever since coup and invasion thirty years ago split the island. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before the summit, said: “We are always ready to take new steps on Cyprus, but the manner of the step is important”. After further contacts during the night, the summit is due to conclude this Friday.