The current Czech EU Presidency has been at work with Turkey’s representatives to try and unjam its EU membership process. Prague wants to chair the opening of two new negotiating chapters – on social policy and taxation – this June.
The Turks have expressed a determination to carry on, but not only Cyprus problems are slowing them down. Among the reforms required, Ankara also needs to adopt a new law on labour union rights, says a European source, before the EU process can resume. This began officially in 2005, but talks in eight out of the 35 policy areas have been suspended over Cyprus, and others have been put on hold by France. Turkey’s EU candidacy, although it was approved by the 27 member states, does not have unanimous support now. Germany is also keen on less than full Turkish membership. Austria is openly opposed and the Netherlands has been notably reserved. On a groundbreaking first visit to Ankara earlier this month, US President Barack Obama voiced his support for Turkey in the EU, drawing a terse response from European core objectors.