Turkey’s foreign minister has celebrated with a touch of relief at the clinching of a last minute deal to start EU membership talks.
Abdullah Gul had been waiting all day in Ankara to see if the European bloc could resolve differences for accession talks to begin. At the eleventh hour the call came that agreement had been reached and he set off for Luxembourg. Britain’s Foreign Minister, Jack Straw spelled out the significance of the talks: “We have just made history – Together we have had the first minesterial meeting on the opening of accession negotiations.” He went on to say, slightly tongue-in-cheek: “ With Turkey we were able to meet the deadline of the 3rd of October – because I began speaking before midnight in the United Kingdom – and this is presidency time.” Ammusment aside, Abdullah Gul was in no doubt that the start of talks marked a new era in European Turkish relations: “This is a win-win situation, and the world will also win – as a result of these accession talks – because Turkey has the characteristics that are diffrerent from other EU member states – and this will bring diversity to the European Union. Turkey has waited more than four decades at the bloc’s door, failure to start the negotiations now would have been a severe blow to political reform and foreign investment in the country. But once Austria had dropped citing “privileged partnership status” rather than “full membership” as the goal- the talks could begin.