Cardiff Summit: Turkey sees EU hopes dashed

THE FRAUGHT relations between the European Union and Turkey if anything worsened yesterday, as the Cardiff summit failed both to explicitly recognise Turkey as a candidate for membership, and register any progress towards releasing 375m Ecu (pounds 240m) owed Ankara under existing agreements.

The ostensible culprit - as usual - was Greece, which strenuously resisted all efforts by the British presidency to mend some of the fences broken at last December's EU summit in Luxembourg, when the EU refused to accept Turkey as a fully fledged candidate.

Thus an attempt failed to have Ankara classified in the final communique alongside the other 11 countries with whom accession negotiations have either begun or been promised. Instead, Turkey has again to make do with vague wordings, which in reality mark no advance from Luxembourg, where it was described as "eligible" for membership.

On the financial front too, deadlock is complete. The British had hoped to slip in either a smaller financial payment to Turkey, or a clear instruction to the Commission in Brussels to look for ways of finding the money which sidestepped a Greek veto. But to no avail. The Commission will now merely "reflect" on how to "underpin" the EU's "strategy" that would prepare Turkey for membership.

The dispute now threatens to poison other key areas of EU policy. In retaliation at the Greek veto, France struck out a reference to the hope of quick progress in entry negotiations with the batch of six countries - among them Cyprus - which started on 31 March. Greece, naturally, is very keen on the earliest possible entry of the Greek Cypriot state, but France has several times urged that talks with Nicosia be suspended until the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot parts of the island are reunited.

But irritation is not only directed at Athens. "The Turks haven't done their cause any good," one Brussels official said last night of Ankara's refusal to attend last month's planned EU-Turkey talks. Moreover, if Greece is in a minority of one on the matter of releasing the promised funds for Turkey, its visceral hostility to Turkish membership of the Union is shared - albeit more quietly - by Germany and other countries.

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