The start of Turkey’s historic accession talks with the European Union is in jeopardy after EU foreign ministers failed to agree a negotiating framework.
Representing Britain, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, Jack Straw says ministers will try again for a deal this morning. After five hours of tough wrangling with Austria, Straw said:“It’s the nature of the EU, on issues of this kind, that uninimity is required in order to go forward. We have a situation where 24 member states have agreed a text, one member state has not, and we have to work through that. It’s not the first time this situation has been arrived at, and I’m quite clear it won’t be the last.” Last night Austria’s Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik continued to wage a lone battle, insisting the EU spell out an alternative to full membership for Turkey, for example “favoured nation” status. As the discussions ended last night, Plassnik said: “I have the impression that we are making some progress, not enough yet, but I hope that with additional efforts invested we will be able to achieve the progress that is needed for us.” Austria has informally linked the Turkish issue to the EU opening accession talks with its largely Catholic neighbour, Croatia. In an apparent effort to increase pressure on Austria, Jack Straw said a planned review of Croatia’s progress towards EU entry talks had been postponed and would have to wait until Turkey was sorted out.