Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Apologies for the delay in coming to this press conference, you can understand why. And this has been a pretty gruelling thirty hours of negotiation with for the three of us all of three hours sleep but I’m pleased to say I think that the time was worth it. And I’m very pleased to announce that agreement has now been reached that negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union can and will begin in the very near future. I hope that we can do it before midnight, it might be after midnight but I think we have met the requirement of the European Council set on the 17th of December and reconfirmed in June that we start the negotiations on the 3rd of October.

This is a truly historic day for Europe and for the whole of the international community. It’s now more than forty years since the prospect of membership of the European Union was first held out to Turkey. It was a prospect that was repeated in 1999, in 2002, in December last year and again in June of this year. Given the time that it’s taken it’s perhaps no surprise that these negotiations to begin formally the negotiations should have taken more than twenty four hours to finalise the agreement that we have just reached inside the Foreign Ministers’ Council.

I’d like to thank all my colleagues for the patience and forbearance that they have shown. It, this has been a, a collective effort with twenty five colleagues in the room with the Government of Turkey, and all colleagues in the Government of Turkey have shown great statesmanship recognising that the prize is such an important one.

I’d particularly like to thank, if I may, Olli Rehn the Commissioner for Enlargement and all of his staff, Javier Solana the High Representative and Secretary General of the Council and all of his staff, and too if I am allowed to I’d like to thank Sir John Grant of the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative and all the presidency staff from the United Kingdom Diplomatic Service for the great job, fantastic job which they have been able to do.

Colleagues, every enlargement that has taken place within the European Union has made both the existing and the new member states stronger and more prosperous. I’m in absolutely no doubt that these benefits will follow from this enlargement and it will bring a strong secular state which happens to have a Muslim majority in to the European Union. Proof that we can live, work and prosper together and we are all much stronger for being united than for, for being divided.

Now as everybody knows this is the start of the negotiation process far from its finish. It’s going to be a long road ahead but I’m in no doubt that bringing Turkey in to the European Union is a prize worth striving for and if the sentiment that has been around today, positive sentiment of co-operation continues which I think it will do then I think the, the future is good.

This is a negotiation in which we are all winners: Europe, the existing member states, Turkey, and the international community.

Allow me now just to move on to the issue of Croatia because I, I believe that this is also going to be a good day for Croatia as well. Carla del Ponte the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague today reported that Croatia is now fully co-operating with her tribunal and its staff. There is currently a meeting of the Croatia Task Force taking place now. I, I don’t want to anticipate the formal outcome of that meeting but I hope that there will be a good and positive result from that as well. And obviously we’ll keep you up to date as soon as possible.

I’d now like to ask Olli Rehn and then Javier for their comments and then of course take your questions.


Commissioner for Enlargement): Thank you Jack. Ladies and gentlemen I agree with Jack Straw that the past thirty hours have tested everyone’s absorption capacity. And I want to congratulate especially Jack Straw for his marvellous effort to prepare this deal. I thought that only the Finns have stamina but I must say that this English man has shown that he has quite a tough upper lip and he never gives in. It required a, quite a perseverance to achieve this result, and also quite a lot of determination from his staff and I would like to extend the thanks to the presidency staff as well as to the other delegations and also our own Commission team.

We have all, all the reason to be satisfied with the outcome of the opening of negotiations with Turkey in time. We may have to stop the clock for a half an hour or one hour but I’m sure that we will be able to start on the 3rd of October.

And indeed the prize is worth striving for because Europe needs a stable democratic and increasingly prosperous Turkey and the start of the negotiations is the best way to, to advance this objective. It will encourage (indistinct) those political forces in Turkey who strive for reforms of human rights and rule of law and it will also give a ... the leverage to the European Union in order to have a influence on the direction of these reforms.