Copenhagen, 13 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- European Union leaders have agreed to start membership talks with Turkey in two years -- but only if Turkey meets the EU's criteria. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking at the EU summit in Copenhagen last night, said EU leaders had agreed to decide in December 2004 if Turkey is ready to start membership talks. "If the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and the recommendations from the commission decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey."
Rasmussen said that if Turkey meets the EU's political and human rights criteria, membership talks with Ankara could begin as soon as possible after the review.
Turkey has been pushing to start EU membership talks no later than 2003.
News agencies quoted an aide to the leader of Turkey's governing Justice And Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as welcoming the EU announcement but suggesting Turkey will continue to press for an earlier opening of membership negotiations. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity.