For Turkey, a Long Road Ahead to Join EU ; the 25-Member European Union Agreed to Open Talks, but Turkey Must Clear Significant Hurdles to Join the Club

Article excerpt

Turkey was ushered into the European Union's waiting room this week. No country has yet left emptyhanded, but Turkey will have to wait until at least 2014 before the door is opened to full membership of the EU.

A decade or more of negotiations lies ahead in which the 25 EU powers will seek to ensure that Ankara's politics, economics, human rights record, and judicial system pass muster. Turkey must incorporate the 100,000-page EU rule book into its law. There are 35 policy areas that require "harmonizing" with EU standards, from food safety to social and environment policy. Negotiations can be suspended if basic EU freedoms are violated.

Earlier this week, the current EU president, Britain, finally secured agreement on the process. "This says we are an open diverse continent which can bridge the gap between Islam and Christianity," said one British diplomat.

But Britain's vision for membership expansion has always been at odds with other EU heavyweights - France and Germany - that have traditionally preferred to concentrate on deeper integration of the few rather than broader assimilation of the many.

Why is Austria so opposed to Turkey's possible membership?

Austria, a country of 8.2 million, is home to 250,000 Turks. Fears have grown of a new influx if Turkey joins the EU, aggravating unemployment in the Alpine country. Popular opinion in swaths of continental Europe has turned heavily against Turkish accession for economic and cultural reasons; some politicians pander to such a viewpoint to win votes.

There may also be historic undertones to Austria's standpoint; Vienna was the capital of the Habsburg Empire, which for centuries viewed the Ottoman Empire on its southeast flank as a threat.

Why was it so important to Austria for Croatia to become an EU member?

The Austrians argued that if Turkey, with its different culture and problematic human rights record, should be taken on trust, so should Croatia, whose government, democracy, geography, demography, and approach to human rights would - according to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel - make it easier for the EU to absorb. …