The European Commission has recommended opening talks on the admission of Turkey to the EU - but Ankara must meet stiff conditions, EU officials say.
Commission officials are reporting on the progress Turkey has already made, along with Bulgaria and Romania. The final decision on Turkey rests with the leaders of all 25 EU member states in December - with accession years off. The Commission's recommendation is a milestone in an increasingly impassioned debate.
The decision was reached by a "large consensus" among commissioners, one EU official said, but no vote was taken, reports BBC.
According to Voice of America, Turkey has been waiting to join the EU for more than 40 years. In 1999, the bloc named it as a candidate for membership. The next step is to begin formal membership talks, a process that is likely to take at least ten years before it can finally join.
On Wednesday, the European Commission will make its recommendation that Turkey be given a date to start the negotiating process. When EU leaders hold a summit in Brussels next December, they are likely to approve the commission's advice and set a date for the talks to begin. And Georges Dellcoigne, who heads the European Center for International and Strategic Research in Brussels says Turkey and Europe will be good for each other.
Turkey's more controversial accession is even further away. European Enlargement Commissioner G nter Verheugen, who is responsible for Wednesday's report, told the German paper Bild that negotiation over Turkey's entry is "an open-ended process..."
"In my opinion," he said, "Turkish entry will be possible at the very earliest by 2015. Nobody can say how the political situation will look in 10 years' time."
But according to a leak in the same paper, Verheugen's report will include the vital phrase "the commission considers that Turkey [has] sufficiently fulfilled the political criteria and recommends that accession negotiations be opened," reports Jerusalem Post.