Magazine article Europe-East

Turkey : Ankara Urged to Speed Up Reforms

Magazine article Europe-East

Turkey : Ankara Urged to Speed Up Reforms

Article excerpt

Turkey needs to make serious headway on reforms to ensure that its EU membership negotiations run smoothly. That was the message from EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn as he met Ankara's chief negotiator Ali Babacan on 19 May in Brussels. 'We have to be able to make a more positive progress report at the end of this year than we did at the end of last year', Mr Rehn stated, with the next report still a half-year away. In the European Commission's November 2005 assessment, Turkey won recognition for its reform efforts to date but was told that the pace of change had slowed in 2005.

'There is a sense of urgency and it is now time for Turkey to regain the momentum of reforms enhancing the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms', Mr Rehn said on 19 May. The Commissioner mentioned freedom of expression, religious freedoms and cultural rights, and the economic and social development of the largely Kurdish South East of the country. 'By speeding up the reform process we can avoid negative repercussions for the negotiation process', Mr Rehn explained. Mr Babacan assured Mr Rehn that Turkey had a rigorous agenda for further reform and implementation.

Turning to another potential complication for the accession process, Mr Rehn called on Turkey to respect its commitment to implement fully its customs union with the enlarged EU - a reference to the EU's desire to see Turkey open its ports to Cypriot vessels. Mr Babacan said there was a 'difference in interpretation' concerning the protocol that extended the customs union to Cyprus and other newer EU members. …

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