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    EU to step up pressure to reform, as Turkey expects fair progress report

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    24.10.2008 - 15:02 | Son Güncelleme:

    EU candidate Turkey must significantly step up reforms if it is to progress its bid to join the 27-nation bloc, the European Commission is to tell the country, EU officials said on Friday. (UPDATED)

    "We will make a strong call for Turkey to very seriously speed up reforms," a European Commission official told Reuters of confidential annual progress reports on EU aspirants that will not be made public until Nov. 5.

    EU aspirants must undergo wide-ranging political, economic, social and regulatory reforms to adopt EU laws and be on par with other members.

    "There has been progress since last year," the official said, citing the reform of a penal code article inhibiting freedom of speech and the enactment of a law on religious foundations.

    "But overall this has not been a year of reforms in Turkey, which has been very busy with the Constitutional court and rulings," the official said, referring to a public prosecutor's effort to have the court ban the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    The constitutional court narrowly rejected the ban in July, but the AKP was fined for undermining secular principles.

    "Generally we have the impression that Turkey has put things on the backburner until the March municipal elections," Reuters quoted a second EU official as saying.

    The EU officials said the bloc's executive will commend Turkey on Nov.5 for the improvement of its relations with Armenia, for its efforts to help stabilise the Caucasus, as well as for some economic reforms, including those aimed at developing the country's south east.

    The EU executive is also set to welcome the relaunch of peace talks on Cyprus, aimed at ending a conflict which has dragged on for decades.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves. Talks between the leaders of the ethnically divided island started in September.

    "This is a crucial moment on Cyprus, there is a potential to solve this very long conflict, we expect a constructive attitude from Turkey," a third EU official said.

    "That would solve many problems it faces in the accession talks," the official told Reuters.

    The EU opened entry talks with Turkey in 2005, but there has been little progress amid disagreements over Cyprus and opposition from France, which took over the bloc's presidency from Slovenia on July 1 for six months, among other EU countries, including Austria and Germany.

    Turkey expects a 2008 progress report prepared by the EU Commission to be objective and fair, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

    "We expect the commission to write a report that is objective and fair," Burak Ozugergin told at a weekly press briefing.

    "We are in touch with EU authorities during the preparation stage of the progress report. The report will emphasize Turkey's deficiencies in its harmonization with the EU acquis," he was quoted by Anatolian Agency as saying.

    Turkish officials have accused the European Union of dragging its feet on Turkey's membership bid and "breaking" its motivation.




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