20 November 2004In Short:
If everything goes as scheduled, Turkey could join the EU by 2015, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot. Meanwhile, French President Chirac believes that a "third option" is also feasible.
While the Presidency is busy compiling an inventory of the EU member states' positions on Turkey's membership bid, Dutch Foreign Minister Bot said that, barring unforeseen events, Turkey stands a fair chance of entering the EU as a full member in 2015.
"Let's say if we start the negotiations in 2005, if there are no unforeseen circumstances [...] and if Turkey goes on on the way of reforms, and I don't see any reason why they should not be able to fulfill the criteria, we estimate that the negotiations could last about 10 years," said Bot.
Asked by journalists whether the target date of 2015 for Turkey's entry was indeed realistic, Bot reportedly replied with an affirmative "yes".
Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac has raised a "third option" for Turkey. "There is a third hypothesis that in three to four years, things have progressed but there are still obstacles that we will not surmount. We will therefore need to find another solution, to create a sufficiently strong link for our ambitions for peace and co-operation but without integration into the EU," said Chirac.
In an exclusive interview with the Turkish paper Zaman , Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said that it was important for Turkey to receive a negotiation start date before the end of 2005. He said that he was strongly opposed to a "privileged partnership" scenario, and argued against postponing negotiations with Turkey until after the EU-wide approval of the new Constitution.
The leaders of the EU member states are scheduled to decide at their 17 December summit whether to open accession negotiations with Ankara.