Turkey says EU progress report positive, blocks remain

10:05, November 10, 2010      

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Egemen Bagis, Turkey's European Union affairs minister, said Tuesday the EU's latest progress report on Turkey's membership bid was positive, but stumbling blocks remain on the path of the predominately Muslim country towards the EU. The EU's latest progress report on Turkey was the most positive and encouraging one released so far and showed the progress Turkey has made in its membership process, Bagis was quoted by the semi- official Anatolia news agency of telling a press conference in the Turkish capital Ankara.

"Turkey is now in a different position thanks to its fastest growing economy in Europe, rapidly improving democratic standards and active foreign policy," Bagis said.

It was a positive development that the European Commission confirmed Turkey's progress in all policy chapters, or negotiation areas, said Bagis.

The European Commission on Tuesday released its annual progress report on Turkey, hailing the country's recent constitutional reforms as paving the way for progress in such areas as the judiciary, fundamental rights and public administration.

In September, Turkish voters approved key amendments to the constitution, product of a military coup in 1980, in a move the government said to improve democracy and human rights to EU standards.

Meanwhile, the report said there had been no progress towards normalization of bilateral relations with Cyprus while Turkey had continued to express public support for UN-sponsored talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey became an EU candidate country in December 1999 and launched accession talks with the EU in October 2005, but only 13 out of 35 chapters have been opened so far.

The major stumbling block is the issue of Cyprus, a Mediterranean island divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the northern third of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers. Eight chapters remain frozen since 2006 because Turkey refuses to open its ports to Greek Cypriot government, a member state of the EU.

Meanwhile, French and German leaders have argued the country should be granted some forms of partnership with the EU instead of full membership.

"I do not claim that Turkey is perfect in every aspect. The country still has major issues to solve. However, when we compare the current situation with the past, we can say that Turkey is at a much better place. Tomorrow, it will be at a much greater position," said Bagis.

In a press conference in Brussels, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele said the EU should keep following the rules of the game and that Turkey should preserve its commitment to reforms, Anatolia reported.

Fuele said he had no concerns about Turkey's membership perspective, while reiterating that Turkey should open its ports to the Greek Cypriot side to overcome the deadlock in its EU negotiation process.

Talking about the Cyprus issue in Ankara, Bagis said Turkey would reopen its airports and sea ports to the Greek Cypriot side "if the isolation on the Turkish Cypriot side is lifted and airline companies of EU-member states start scheduled flights to Ercan International Airport (in the Turkish Cypriot side.)"

Speaking during his visit to Britain, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said it would not be politically correct for Turkey to open its ports to the Greek Cypriot side while Greek Cypriots are imposing embargoes on Turkish Cypriots, Anatolia reported.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Gul said certain political issues have slowed down and to a certain extent " hijacked" Turkey's negotiations with the EU.

However, Gul reiterated Ankara's commitment to joining the EU despite the freezing of a majority of policy chapters.

The international order was shifting towards the east but denied that meant Ankara was less enthusiastic about joining the EU, he was quoted as saying.

In a joint article published in Tuesday's Italian newspaper La Repubblica, visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini said Turkey's accession to the EU is a historic opportunity that should not be missed by either party.

In the article titled "European Union should not Close Doors to Turkey," the ministers criticized the attitude of antagonizing Turkey's membership bid with such allegations as that Turkey does not embrace European culture and law.

"That means denying the unique capacity of Europe in harmonizing and blending together different cultures within the framework of shared values that has been one of the main elements.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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