PM Erdoğan tries to revitalize EU bid

ISTANBUL - The Turkish prime minister sought Friday to revitalize Turkey’s EU membership bid, which has bogged down amid opposition from Paris and Berlin, along with historical differences over Cyprus.

"No other candidate nation has been subjected to this kind of treatment," said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who traveled to Brussels with two senior colleagues for talks with European Union officials. "This situation has to change," he added, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

"Some countries have adopted a political attitude in the negotiation process, and their efforts to slow things down upset us," he told reporters. Erdoğan dismissed proposals by Paris and Berlin to grant Turkey a "privileged partnership" that would offer it enhanced trade and other ties instead of full membership. "We cannot accept the positions France and Germany have taken," Erdogan said. "There is no such type of [privileged] partnership. Our goal is full membership."

French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with their Austrian colleagues, favor some kind of special relationship with Turkey that falls short of full membership. The issue got a thorough airing during the campaign for the EU parliamentary polls, and reluctance to embrace Turkey as an EU member garnered support from certain quarters at the vote. Erdogan criticized some candidates’ use of Turkey as a poll card, calling such tactics "populist and wrong."

Also on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to becoming an EU member, saying speeding up the negotiations serves the strategic interests of the country. "Recent busy diplomatic traffic between Turkey and the EU shows Turkey’s increasing motivation about the country’s membership bid," the Anatolia news agency quoted Davutoğlu as telling a joint press conference after a meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Long to-do list

Rehn made clear, however, that Turkey has to work harder. "In particular, there is a pressing need to reform the legal and constitutional framework governing the closure of political parties," he said. "We simply cannot afford yet another unnecessary constitutional crisis stemming from outdated rules not in line with European standards."

Ankara formally opened its EU talks in October 2005. Since then, it has managed to open up 10 of the 35 policy chapters, which all candidate nations must negotiate successfully prior to accession. EU and Turkish officials said that an 11th chapter, on taxation, would be opened in Brussels next Tuesday.
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