18 December, 2004
The European Union and Turkey reached a last-minute compromise on Friday afternoon allowing for the opening of accession negotiations in early October 2005, and after Ankara pledged that it would sign a pact essentially regognizing Cyprus as an EU member.
The 25 EU leaders also reportedly agreed that talks would be open-ended with no guaranteed outcome.
Of particular importance to Cyprus and Greece was paragraph 19 of the summit conclusions.
"The European Council welcomed Turkey's decision to sign the Protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement, taking account of the accession of the 10 new Member States.
"In this light, it welcomed the declaration of Turkey that 'the Turkish Government confirms that it is ready to sign the Protocol on the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement prior to the actual start of accession negotiations and after reaching agreement on and finalizing the adaptations which are necessary in view of the current membership of the European Union'," it read.
In the next paragraph, the EU leaders directly touched on Turkey's unilateral claims in the Aegean, especially the dispute involving the sea's continental shelf, noting that the "European Council, while underlining the need for unequivocal commitment to good neighborly relations welcomed the improvement in Turkey's relations with its neighbors and its readiness to continue to work with the concerned Member States towards resolution of outstanding border disputes in conformity with the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter...
"... In this connection it (European Council) reaffirmed its view that unresolved disputes having repercussions on the accession process, should if necessary be brought to the International Court of Justice for settlement. The European Council will be kept informed of progress achieved which it will review as appropriate."
While finding that Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria after adopting six pieces of legislation requested by the European Commission to begin accession negotiations, EU leaders also left the door open for restrictions that would limit labor migration from Turkey, or in areas like structural policy and agriculture.
The summit conclusions talk of "long transition periods, derogations, specific arrangements or permanent safeguard clauses" that may be considered and included by the Commission in the framework for negotiations with Turkey "as appropriate".
At the same time, it indicates that such measures will not be permanent, talking of "transitional arrangements or safeguards" that should be reviewed regarding their "impact on competition of the functioning of the internal market".
Another paragraph of the summit conclusions appears to point to lengthy negotiations with Turkey, with EU leader noting that accession negotiations that begin from now on with candidates "whose accession could have substantial financial consequences" can only be concluded after the establishment of the Financial Framework for the period from 2014, together with possible consequential financial reforms.
Source: Athens News Agency