It was in December 2004 that EU leaders unanimously decided negotiations over Turkey’s membership of the European Union should begin on Monday.
It was a momentous day for Ankara, which first began to woo Europe more than four decades ago. Before talks could begin, though, Turkey had to do two things. It had to vote on penal reforms and it had to extend its customs union to the 10 new countries which joined the EU last year, including Cyprus. Ankara passed a whole series of legal reforms earlier this year, banning repressive laws and introducing tougher measures to prevent torture and violence against women. It had banned the death penalty in 2004, bringing it in line with Europe. Although Turkey extended its customs agreement to Cyprus, it said this did not imply recognition of the divided island. So it has continued to block Cypriot ships and aircraft from its ports and airports. The EU replied, saying Turkey must recognise Cyprus before it becomes a member but with talks expected to last at least 10 years, that is some way off. It must also fully implement the customs union and the EU will check next year if this has happened. Turkey has described the condition of recognition as unjust and politically motivated, complaining no other country has had restrictions like this imposed on it.