Bonn boosts Turkish hopes of joining EU

British plans to stage a grand 27-nation summit for leaders of countries seeking European Union membership were boosted last night after Bonn dropped its veto on the inclusion of Turkey. Katherine Butler in Brussels reports on the German breakthrough.
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The Independent Online
Britain, which takes over the EU presidency in January, now has majority support among its EU partners for inviting Turkey into a pan-European "conference" designed as a consolation prize for applicants who will not be included in the next wave of the EU's enlargement. Greece remains implacably opposed to anything which might be construed by Ankara as a ticket to join the EU membership queue, but in a move interpreted by British officials as a breakthrough, the German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, said Bonn was now dropping its opposition.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, welcomed the German change of heart, saying it reflected the "gathering recognition that Turkey must be a part of such a European conference". "We have always taken the view that it is important to encourage those in Turkey who see Turkey's vocation as European," he added.

Ankara first applied to join the then EECin 1963 but most member states are deeply uncomfortable about encouraging its membership given Turkey's size, poverty, religious make-up and human rights record.

Resolving how to give Turkey the status it deserves within "the European family" without raising false hopes has become urgent now that EU membership negotiations with Cyprus are due to start in March. The Turks have threatened to annex northern Cyprus if negotiations proceed exclusively with the Greek Cypriots.

Mr Cook said Turkey would have to demonstrate "very substantial further steps" on its economy and human rights record but this would be easier through a process of dialogue.