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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 08:07 GMT
Analysis: Turkey's EU dismay
Turkish parliament
Turkey must still meet the EU's criteria

The decision by the EU that Turkey must wait at least two more years before starting talks on joining the group is deeply disappointing for Turkey on a number of fronts.

The government had been pressing hard for an early date from the EU.

It is an interim decision. It's a flexible one

Turkish Government
It is very concerned that if negotiations begin after the entry of more countries to the EU in May 2004, then its chances of accession will be negatively affected.

But with a late 2004 date, Turkey will have to deal with the objections of yet more countries including Greek-controlled Cyprus.

Turkish officials put a brave face on the announcement.

"This can be considered as a good decision. It is not a distant and negative decision. It is an interim decision. It's a flexible one," said an aide to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party.

Silver lining

Turkey had been hoping for a firm date rather than a conditional one.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The decision is a setback for Erdogan

Instead, once more, it will have to prove that it meets the EU criteria on democracy, accountability and the rule of law.

There is something of a silver lining.

There was praise from the Danish prime minister for the country's efforts at human rights reform and a date is not quite as far in the future as France and Germany had suggested they wanted.

But this is not a good day for Turkey and it is a blow for its new government which has invested much time and some prestige in securing an early and unconditional date for negotiations to begin.

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The BBC's Tim Franks
"As far as the Turks are concerned they'll be bitterly disappointed"

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13 Dec 02 | Europe
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