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05VIENNA2626 2005-08-04 13:14:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vienna
Cable title:  

EU/TURKEY: AUSTRIANS SHARPEN CRITICISM, BUT

Tags:   PREL PGOV ECIN AU TU EUN 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VIENNA 002626 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS, EUR/ERA, EUR/SE AND INR/EU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECIN AU TU EUN
SUBJECT: EU/TURKEY: AUSTRIANS SHARPEN CRITICISM, BUT
HOLD TO OCTOBER 3 START FOR TALKS

REF: Vienna 1969 (and previous)

This message is sensitive but unclassified.



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Austrian attitudes are hardening on
Turkey's prospects for EU accession. Polls show only ten
percent of Austrians support Turkish entry. In recent
statements, leaders across the spectrum have voiced
increasing skepticism regarding Turkish EU membership.
Finance Minister Grasser told the Financial Times on July
18 that EU membership for Balkan aspirants should have
priority over Turkish ambitions. Foreign Minister
Plassnik suggested holding an extraordinary EU Council on
Turkish entry. Joerg Haider, chairman of the junior
coalition party BZO, called for a halt to EU expansion
(including delaying the 2007 accessions of Romania and
Bulgaria). The Turkish statement of July 29 that its
signing of the EU customs union protocol did not amount
to recognition of the Republic of Cyprus elicited sharp
criticism. Vice Chancellor Gorbach (BZO) said that
negotiations should not begin until Turkey recognizes
Cyprus. Opposition parties SPO and FPO expressed similar
views. Chancellor Schuessel, in an August 1 interview
with the German newsweekly "Der Spiegel," said that the
EU must take account of its own "absorptive capacity,"
and reiterated that negotiations should consider
alternatives to full membership. End summary.

FM Plassnik Proposes Extraordinary EU Council


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told the daily
"Kurier" on July 25 that, given the skepticism towards
Turkish EU membership within most European countries, the
EU Commission's draft mandate for accession negotiations
should contain more robust language on "open-endedness,"
including "the option of an alternative to membership."
In her view, the mandate should also take account of the
EU's "absorptive capacity as a condition for membership."
In the interview, Plassnik deplored an apparent "tacit
agreement not to debate the substance" at the July 18
GAERC, noting that the informal Foreign Ministers meeting
in Newport in early September would only address the
Turkish question on the margins. She suggested convening
an extraordinary GAERC prior to October 3 to refine the
Commission's negotiating mandate.

Finance Minister Argues Against Turkish Membership


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (SBU) Previously, in a July 18 interview in the
Financial Times, Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said
he favored putting aside full Turkish EU membership in
favor of bringing Croatia "and other Balkan states" into
the union. Grasser's blunt statement generated little
response from his ministerial colleagues. FM Plassnik
merely noted that October 3 remained the date for
starting accession talks with Ankara.

Coalition Partner Says It Wants To Halt EU Expansion


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (SBU) On July 25, Carinthian Governor Joerg Haider
and Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach, leaders of the junior
coalition party "Alliance Future Austria" (BZO), called
for an "immediate stop to EU expansion and related
negotiations," and an increased focus on fighting
unemployment and reforming Austria's economy instead.
(Until now, Haider, much to the bewilderment of his own
party and popular opinion, had been a stalwart advocate
of Turkish EU membership.) Chancellor Schuessel
countered that the EU had agreed on a procedure for
accession talks which included a perspective that
negotiations with Ankara would be open-ended.

BZO, SPO, FPO harden stances against Turkish entry


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. Predictably, Turkey's July 29 statement that its
signing of an EU customs protocol did not constitute
recognition of Cyprus also elicited a spate of Turkey-
critical comments from various political camps. On July
31, both the Social Democrats (SPO) and the right-wing
Freedom Party (FPO) took issue with Turkey's statement.
Vice Chancellor Gorbach (BZO) said that entry talks with
Ankara should not begin until Turkey recognizes Cyprus.
Austria's Greens, generally sympathetic to Turkish EU
accession, also expressed disappointment over Ankara's
statement. Austrian President Fischer said Austria must
approach the question of expansion, including Turkish
accession, carefully and responsibly, but that the EU
must honor its agreements with applicant countries.

Schuessel reiterates conditions for Turkish EU membership


--------------------------



--------------------------





6. (SBU) In recent press interviews, Schuessel has
supported EU membership for Romania, Bulgaria, and
Croatia, but warned against the costs associated with
taking in Turkey. Schuessel confirmed that he is holding
to the October 3 start date for negotiations, reiterating
his conditions: that Turkish accession not overstrain the
EU's "absorptive capacity" (read: finances); that
negotiations be open-ended; and that the EU and Turkey
consider alternatives to full membership. Schuessel said
that the EU would also need "other partnership models"
for Ukraine, Belarus, and the Mediterranean region.



7. (SBU) COMMENT: The GOT statement on non-recognition of
Cyprus played into the hands of the Turkey skeptics. Led
by public opinion, politicians of all stripes are
increasingly ready to ventilate criticism of possible
Turkish entry. The London bombings jolted the Austrian
public. Then, inflammatory press statements by a small
coterie of radical imams set off an overheated debate
about the role of Muslims in Austrian society. While no
one has yet made a direct connection to the question of
Turkey's EU prospects and these negative developments,
they have served to undermine the basis for a reasoned
discussion on the merits of Turkey's EU aspirations.
VAN VOORST