Further enlargement might not be the most popular of topics around the European Union at the moment, but it's worth noting that the Commission continues to press ahead according to plans.
Following the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia on October 3 last year, there has been conducted a so called screening of legislation and rules in the two countries. This was expected to take some time.
Now the Commission wants to start concrete negotiations on one of the 35 chapters of the treaties that will have to be negotiated. Obviously, one starts with something that is relatively easy and uncontroversial, in this case the science and research chapter.
The Commission proposal will now have to be supported by all the 25 member states. Among these are Cyprus with its nationalistic and narrow-minded government, so nothing can be taken for granted.
The Nicosia government is in a particularly bad mood after UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in an explosion of frankness has said that they should never really have been allowed to join the European Union. He's of course right - the membership option was one for a united Cyprus - but we are where we are.
So we'll have to wait and see what happens. The popular mood particularly on the Turkey issue has probably been affected by the cartoon controversy and the TV images that have been coming out of the Muslim world.
But the imperative need for enlargement towards the Southeast is still very much there - not the least with the secular Muslim democracy that is Turkey.
EU to open talks during Austrian presidency - Turkish Daily News Feb 08, 2006