Turkey's EU bid reaches a crux
The EU's decision in December on Turkey's bid for membership will have dramatic effects on the country's economic development. But even if the formal accession process begins, major reforms will still have to be undertaken.
TURKEY'S 41-YEAR-OLD quest for membership of the European Union is fast nearing make or break-point since a December decision by the EU leadership will either pave the way to the opening of formal negotiations or kill the attempt stone dead. The decision, most analysts in Turkey say, will either breathe new life into what is still a fragile economy or send it reeling.
Although Turkey would still be several years away from EU membership, a favourable decision in December could initiate formal candidacy. After reviewing the results and recommendations from an annual October progress report prepared by the European Commission, the EU's Council of Ministers will decide whether Turkey has met the basic criteria to launch formal membership negotiations. The announcement will include a timetable, with negotiations expected to begin in June or July 2005. They involve protracted bargaining over time and terms for Turkey to embrace and adjust to the 80,000-page acquis communautaire, the body of rules and regulations that governs everything from sanitary rules in cheese manufacture to carbon dioxide emissions from cement plants.
If the Council of Ministers concludes that Turkey has failed to meet the Copenhagen Criteria laid down in 1993, Turkey's EU project is off and a process that began in 1963 with the Ankara Agreement, which associated Turkey with what was then the European Economic Community, will have come to nothing.