Turkey’s prime minister returned from Brussels to a hero’s welcome today, hours after the European Union agreed to start entry talks with Ankara.
Turkish shares hit a record high on news of the deal, underlining hopes that EU entry talks will attract foreign investment. However, banners proclaiming Recep Tayyip Erdogan the “new star of the EU” were optimistic at best. Turkey will be unable to join the bloc for at least a decade and possibly not at all. After hours of uncertainty, Erdogan and the 25 EU leaders agreed to begin accession talks on October 3, 2005. Erdogan refused to formally recognize Cyprus, Turkey’s longtime adversary and an EU member since May. Under the deal, Turkey must issue a statement promising to extend its customs union to all 10 new EU members, giving de facto recognition to the Greek Cypriot government. In April, the Greek Cypriot population rejected a UN plan to reunite the divided island, where Turkey still has about 40,000 troops in the north. The Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende says Ankara “accepted the hand” offered by the EU, but Erdogan’s domestic opponents say that hand contained nothing but vague promises.