Turkey to press on with EU reforms

Turkey to continue reforms despite EU partial suspension of its entry talks.

    The Turkish prime minister wants to press
    ahead with EU reforms [AP]

    Volkan Bozkir, a Turkish ambassador, said in an interview: "After absorbing the shock, we have decided we are not going to argue politically but will handle this at a professional level. Politics won't add more to an already fragile situation."
    Ankara eschewed the temptation to retaliate by reducing its own co-operation with Brussels, for example on the EU's common foreign and defence policies, as some hardliners had proposed.
    "The retaliation idea has gone," he said.
    Instead, the government has instructed ministries to draft plans by the end of this month to adopt EU legislation in all policy areas to be ready for accession by the end of 2013.
    Bozkir said: "There's a kind of fatigue on both sides [EU and Turkey], so we decided to proceed without waiting for the EU to open each negotiating chapter by doing our own homework in Ankara."

    Turkey would enlist the advice of the European Commission to ensure its legislation was EU-compatible.
    "So when the EU decides or has a more permissive environment to open chapters, Turkey will start more ready. So time will not be lost," he said.

    Welcomed initiative
    Aides to Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, welcomed the Turkish initiative.
    Negotiations are divided into 35 so-called "chapters" or policy sectors. Turkey has completed only one chapter - science and research - since it began talks in October 2005.
    Cyprus blocked the opening of any other negotiating chapter last year and it is uncertain whether Nicosia will now allow talks on some of the policy areas not suspended to go ahead.
    Bozkir made clear there would be no early move to comply with the EU's demands on trade with Cyprus, or to amend a disputed penal code article used to prosecute journalists and intellectuals for "insulting Turkishness".
    A presidential election in May and parliamentary polls due in November make such sensitive political gestures unrealistic, and the EU's partial suspension had removed any time pressure.
    "There is no hurry any more," he said.
    Moving forward

    Instead, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who's AK party is rooted in political Islam, wants to keep the EU accession process moving forwards below the political radar screen.
    Bozkir acknowledged it would be politically easier to make sometimes painful EU-driven reforms if there were the political reward of opening and closing ceremonies for chapters that are the milestones on the accession path.
    But he said the new strategy had the advantage of making clearer to public opinion that Turkey was adopting these laws for its own benefit and not under pressure from Brussels.
    "This is the way out during the difficult period ahead," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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