Monday, July 18, 2005

Balkan EU membership should come before Turkey, says Austrian minister

Croatia and other Balkan countries have more of a "right" to be in the EU than Turkey, the Austrian finance minister has said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Karl-Heinz Grasser, whose country will chair the EU in the first half of next year, has suggested that full membership of the bloc is not a realistic proposal for Turkey.

All 25 member states will have to hammer out a "negotiations framework" for dealing with the country before the talks can start on 3 October.

The European Commission has suggested the negotiations should be carried out as an "open-ended process", with the possibility of Turkey's full EU membership remaining on the table.

But Mr Grasser opposes the idea as past practice shows that entry talks always lead to full membership. The finance minister believes the framework should be redefined so Ankara's hopes are not too high.

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