Europe agrees with Austria on Turkey subject

Austria's opposition to the European Union starting entry talks with Turkey reflects many Europeans' concerns, the foreign minister said Friday, defending her country's position as "reasonable and moderate." reported earlier, that Austria's insistence that Turkey be offered the option of a lesser partnership rather than full membership has thrown the EU's plans to begin negotiations with Ankara on Monday into turmoil. EU foreign ministers are to hold emergency talks Sunday in an effort to resolve the deadlock.

All 25 EU nations must agree on a negotiating mandate before talks can begin with Ankara. The 24 other EU members accept a mandate that says the "shared objective of the negotiations is accession" but adds that they are "open-ended." Turkey rejects anything less than talks for full membership, the AP reports.

Vienna's concerns as to "whether the European Union is ready and capable to accept Turkey as a full member, whether all implications of full membership has been sufficiently examined," are shared "all over Europe," Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told The Associated Press in an e-mail response to questions.

Many Europeans are concerned about the EU's ability to absorb Turkey, a country with a predominantly Muslim and largely poor population of about 70 million.

"What we propose is an option in case membership does not work out," Plassnik said. Full membership for Turkey is possible "one day, if Turkey fulfills the requirements and if the European Union is also in a position to absorb Turkey," she said.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told two European newspapers earlier this week that talks with Turkey should only begin if separate membership talks with Croatia are also restarted. Brussels has demanded that Zagreb do more to capture a top war crimes suspect wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.


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