Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turks Set out on Long Road to Joining EU

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turks Set out on Long Road to Joining EU

Article excerpt

Byline: ISABEL OAKESHOTT

TURKEY took the first step towards joining the European Union today after an 11th-hour breakthrough in talks.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul arrived in Luxembourg to begin formal membership negotiations after Austria backed down on the issue.

It follows a marathon round of negotiations during which Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik said Turkey should be offered only partial membership.

Fears that the talks would collapse were fuelled when she warned that "such fundamental things" were at stake that "compromise is not possible".

But today entry talks began after Ankara agreed a "roadmap" for joining.

Turkey would be the first Muslim member state, taking the EU population to more than 500 million, with a fifth being Turkish Muslims. Supporters of the move argue that it will help narrow the divide between the Christian and Muslim world, thereby reducing terrorism.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described it as a "truly historic day for Europe and the whole international community". …

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