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EU Leaders Gather in Copenhagen - 2002-12-11

European Union leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to formally invite 10 candidate countries to join the 15-nation bloc. The summit participants are grappling with the question of what to do about another would-be candidate, Turkey.

On the eve of the summit, Turkey was lobbying hard to be given a date certain when it can begin negotiations to join the European Union. Even President Bush has lobbied on Turkey's behalf. After a visit from Turkish leaders, the president called Denmark's prime minister Wednesday to plead Turkey's case.

EU leaders named Turkey a candidate for membership in 1999. But three years later, at this summit where ten countries are being given invitations and two others are on track to join, the 15-nation bloc is balking at giving Turkey a firm date.

The EU appears set to offer a conditional date of 2005, but only after a full review of Turkey's human rights record and other issues a year earlier.

Turkey's ruling party leader, Tayyip Erdogan, accuses EU leaders of having a double standard for admissions. He argues that accession talks should begin next year, because Turkey has met most membership criteria, while many of those being admitted have failed in some areas.