Searching for an agreement on Turkey – that is the task facing EU foreign ministers in Luxemburg ahead of talks on letting the country join the bloc. There are deep divisions within the Union over the issue and today’s meeting is the latest in a long and difficult process. Austria is leading opposition to Turkish entry. It favours giving Ankara a ‘privileged partnership status’.
But the Turkish leadership has signalled it is not interested in anything less than full membership. Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan talked with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel by phone on Saturday night but the pair are not reported to have made any progress. He took a robust stance in a meeting with party colleagues today, declaring that the EU faced the choice becoming a force on the world stage or a Christian club.
Erdogan has expressed the hope Austria might back down once polls have closed in a regional election in its Styria province on Sunday. Previous talks on the question have only succeeded after last minute deals. Supporters of Turkish entry say it will boost trade and foster democracy in Turkey. Opponents says the largely muslim country is too poor and too culturally different to integrate into Europe.