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European Commission Gives Turkey Conditional OK

6 October 2004 -- The European Commission says the European Union should start membership talks with Turkey -- but has set stiff conditions to prevent it from backtracking on democratic and human rights reforms.

EU Commission President Romano Prodi told European Parliament leaders today that the commission is giving what he called a "qualified yes" to Ankara's bid.

But Prodi said the decision is hedged with a series of provisions for monitoring and verifying what is actually happening in Turkey.

"The reply that the commission gives today is a 'yes' -- a positive response with respect to the [political] requirements and favorable with the regard to the opening of negotiations. However, it is a qualified 'yes' that comes with a series of recommendations regarding the control and verification of the situation in Turkey," Prodi said.

News agencies quote the commission recommendation as saying the negotiations with Turkey are "open-ended," and the outcome "cannot be guaranteed beforehand."

No date was set for the start of talks. A summit of EU leaders will decide whether to accept the commission's recommendation, and will set a date for the talks to begin.

Turkey has been trying to join the EU for the past 40 years, and if it succeeds it will be the first Muslim-majority state to become an EU member. But Turkey is not expected to become an actual member for at least another decade.

(compiled from agency reports)