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Saturday, December 13, 1997 Published at 10:07 GMT



World

Turkey refused EU membership
image: [ Juncker:
Juncker: "I do not believe the human rights issue can be solved in three to five years"

European Unions leaders have agreed to invite Cyprus and five eastern European countries to begin negotiations on EU membership early next year.

But they again refused to accept Turkey. Its application was rejected for the tenth year because of the country's human rights record.

The road to membership will be a dual-lane process, with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus joining as early as 2004.


[ image: All smiles, but EU leaders faced divisive issues]
All smiles, but EU leaders faced divisive issues
Five more countries, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, may be allowed in at a later stage.

The Swedish Foreign Minister, Lena Hlem-Wallen, said: "We will all start together, but the front-runners will have a fast track."

The membership talks are to begin on March 31, 1998, the EU summit in Luxembourg decided.


British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tells the BBC's John Sargeant there are formidable obstacles to Turkey joining the EU
But Turkey will not be there, nor is it likely to receive such an invitation soon.

The summit host, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said: "I do not believe the human rights issue can be solved in three to five years.


[ image: Turkey promised to cause problems for the EU if not allowed in]
Turkey promised to cause problems for the EU if not allowed in
"It cannot be that a country where torture is still practiced has a place at the European Union table."

A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Necati Utkan, denied his country broke international human rights agreements.

"Juncker's insulting and unsupported words are regrettable," Mr Utkan said. "If the so-called human rights issue is being put forward as a cover to keeping Turkey at a distance, we'll have to evaluate that separately."

The Turkish Prime Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, said he would not attend Saturday's dinner with the EU leaders.

But the EU is considering offering Turkey a seat on a new European Conference, an annual summit between the Union and the prospective members.

At those meetings, the EU will have to consider the impact of expansion on its subsidies, aid programmes and decision-making procedures.

For the moment, however, it has suspended the debate on these issues.


 
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tells the BBC's John Sargeant there are formidable obstacles to Turkey joining the EU





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