STAFF REPORTER EUROPEAN Commission ex-president, Jacques Santer, said yesterday in Palma that the process of finalising a Constitution for the European Union must continue. He argued that stopping it “wouldn't be fair” to the member states who approved it. Santer was speaking in Palma on the second day of the sixth annual North-South European Economic Summit being held at the Hotel Melia Victoria. The occasion has brought together no less than 14 ex-European ministers and their current counterparts, as well as leaders and delegates from a total of no less than 40 countries. Also taking part in discussions with Santer were the ex-prime minister for Turkey, Mesut Yilmaz, the ex-foreign affairs minister for Turkey, Emre Gonensay and the ex-Speaker of Germany's parliament Klaus Hansch. Santer expressed his conviction that next Monday, talks will begin on the issue of Turkey joining the European Union, in spite of reservations voiced by Austria. Yilmaz was scathing about the ambiguous posture adopted by some member states who at an international level were positive about moving the process for Turkey's EU membership forward, but internally within their own countries, they deliberately slow the momentum. As an example, he poointed to the federal chancillor of Austria, Wolfgang Schüssel, who is keen on furthering ways of association with Turkey other than EU membership. The ex-prime minister of Turkey urged the European Union not to put new conditions on his country's application for membership and called on all 25 member states to “fulfill their promises” because the onset of “nationalist” tendencies in Turkey may end up hindering unity with Europe. Hansch said that Turkey's bargaining position in the negotiations was bordering on “blackmail” and replied to Yilmaz that authorities in Turkey shouldn't “threaten” the Union with hostility if their application to join is rejected. Gonensay said that the EU is going through a “crisis” stage and that with the lowering of the age for retirement from work, it could mean that the generation of 25-year-olds is being pushed to the limit to support “an unviable economy”. The ex-foreign affairs minister for Turkey pointed out that the pension contributions needed to maintain a retired worker in the EU have risen from those of seven to 24 workers over the last few years and that the Union will need 200 million immigrants to provide an economic basis for pensioning off an ageing population.


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