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EU Bids to Ease Turkish Concerns

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union sought yesterday to reassure Turkey that plans to start membership talks this year remained on track, despite uncertainty over the EU Constitution and the political leadership in Germany.


The EU's executive Commission underlined that the decision to start negotiations with Ankara on October 3, albeit depending on specific conditions, had been made by EU leaders at a summit last December.

"There has been a decision made by unanimity by the highest political level in the EU... to start accession talks with Turkey on October 3," said Krisztina Nagy, spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

"The Commission is doing its job in order to prepare for the mandate it has received. We are doing our work. The Turkish authorities are doing their work as well," the spokeswoman added.

French voters are threatening to reject the EU charter in a referendum next Sunday, while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called for national elections to be brought forward by a year--in a move which, in theory, could let in the opposition Christian Democrats, who have far more reservations about Turkey's EU bid.

Gul said it was out the question for the elections in Germany to delay or affect Turkey's membership talks.

"Governments may change, opposition parties may come to power, but they cannot prevent continuity," Gul said in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is attending a NATO meeting.