On what could be his farewell trip to the United States as Germany's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer discussed Turkish membership in the EU and the EU role in the world in the aftermath of the consitutional crisis.
It might be Fischer's last visit to the White House
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, on a two-day visit to Washington, told journalists he favored going ahead with talks on Turkey's EU accession set for Oct. 3. The decision to start the negotiations was final, but the negotiation framework still had to be determined, and the decision about it had to be reached unanimously.
Abandoning talks with Ankara "would carry considerable risk," said Fischer after a meeting with US Security Advisor Stephan Hadley.
Both the proponents and the opponents of the Turkish entry into the EU agree about Turkey's strategic importance for European security. They also agree that Turkey still needs to undergo a long modernization process with the help of European countries.
The difference between the two camps lies in the way they see the outcome of the negotiations as either a full membership or "something which already exists today, namely a privileged partnership," Fischer said.
No automatic membership
Will Turkey be the first predominantly Muslim nation to join EU?
Taking into account opposition to Turkey's EU membership, Fischer said that at any rate a decision on Turkey's membership would come at the conclusion of accession talks and only after a "Europe-capable" Turkey has come into existence.
The decision would come "within 15 years at the earliest," he said.
Fischer also connected the Turkish question with the developments in the Near and Middle East as well as the Iran nuclear weapons policy.
"I do not understand why anyone would give that up, unless one was blind and reckless about European security interests," he said.
Some EU officials said Dutch and French rejection of the EU constitution meant an end to EU enlargement. The US, on the other hand, is concerned about the possible repercussions the European constitutional crisis may have on the role which EU currently plays as a stabilizing factor in the Balkan region.
Fischer underscored that the EU would remain active on the world stage. In view of the negotiations about the final status of Kosovo, according to Fisher, this was a "decisive year."
Similarly to the Turkish model, the EU Balkan strategy is based on offering Balkan countries the possibility of joining the EU after they have met a set of necessary conditions.
US giving up opposition
Meanwhile, the United States signaled Wednesday that it was open to a third term for UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, but stopped short of endorsing a new mandate outright.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington had worked well with ElBaradei in the past and she looked forward to talks on the future with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) here Thursday.
ElBaradei has clashed with the United States over Iraq's weapons capability and his handling of Iran's nuclear program. But diplomats in Vienna said the Americans had given up trying to deny him a new, four-year term.
"We do have a long-held view that in general it is better that there be two terms for these positions," Rice told reporters after talks here Wednesday with Fischer. "Nonetheless, we have worked well with Dr. ElBaradei in the past. And I'm going to meet him tomorrow to discuss his vision for what the IAEA will do in these next extremely important years."
Rice did not explicitly say the United States would drop its
opposition to a new term for ElBaradei, who has served as IAEA director general since 1997 and is the only candidate before the body's board of governors.
Fischer was less nuanced. "Our experiences in the cooperation with the IAEA, especially in the Iran issue, was excellent," said Fischer. "So I have no reasons to complain."