Erdogan (R) hopes to secure EU
entry within the next two years

Erdogan, whose country is the only nation among 13 candidates still waiting for a green light from the EU to start accession talks, is expected to fly to Greece on Friday.
  
The EU Thessaloniki Summit this weekend is likely to include encouraging statements regarding Turkey's continuing efforts toward reform, according to Greek Foreign Minister Tasos Yiannitsis  

The minister told journalists that the Netherlands had initially objected to Turkey's participation at the summit, but was later persuaded to reverse its decision, allowing Ankara to participate in the Intergovernmental Conference as an observer.

Observer status allows a representative to attend plenary meetings of the conference, without the right to speak, vote or stand for election. Bulgaria and Romania have also been afforded the status of observer.

All 15 EU foreign ministers also agreed to invite Turkey as an observer to the Intergovernmental Conference as well - which is scheduled to run from November until next spring.

Ankara had previously been excluded from the conference due to the lack of scheduled full-membership negotiations.

The agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference will include discussions of the EU constitution, prepared by the European Council (EC).

Reform

Reports also indicate that the Thessaloniki Summit will issue a summary statement pertaining to Turkey's reform efforts.

In the statement, the EU notes its satisfaction with the Turkish government's ongoing efforts towards reform and the EU's support for Turkey's efforts to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for entry.

The statement indicates that even though Turkey's efforts are appreciated, there are important steps yet to be taken and that these steps will affect the upcoming decision involving initiation of negotiations in the 2004 EU Summit.

The statement points out that the prerequisites listed in the Accession treaty and explained by the EU in Athens on 16 April 2003, need to be fulfilled, highlighting that fulfilment of the prerequisites would bring Turkey closer to full membership.

The EU will assess Turkey's democratisation progress later this year, before EU leaders decide in December 2004 whether to open accession talks with it.