Turkey pushes EU membership bid

Prime minister seeks progress with bloc, but rejects calls for enhanced partnership.

    Tayyip Erdogan met with Olli Rehn in Brussels, Belgium to discuss Turkey's EU bid [AFP]

    "There is no such type of [privileged] partnership. Our goal is full membership. Our European friends unfortunately have a unilateral expectation which is rather populist and it saddens us. I hope we will overcome this," he said.

    Push for reforms

    Turkey's progress towards EU membership has been slow, partly due to its refusal to recognise Cyprus and its constitution, which has the power to stifle freedom of expression and shut down political parties.

    Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, said Turkey had to work harder at making changes.

    "In particular, there is a pressing need to reform the legal and constitutional framework governing the closure of political parties.

    "We simply cannot afford yet another unnecessary constitutional crisis stemming from outdated rules not in line with European standards," he said.

    "It is equally important to guarantee freedom of expression and the independence and pluralism of the media."

    The EU began formal accession talks with Turkey in 2005, but has opened discussions in only 10 of the 35 negotiating areas, or chapters, that must be completed before it can join.

    Talks were frozen in eight chapters in 2006 after Turkey refused to open its ports and airports to vessels and aircraft from the Greek Cypriot-controlled part of Cyprus.

    Ankara expects to conclude an agreement with the EU on Tuesday to open the chapter on tax issues but there is no sign of progress in the ports dispute.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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