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Turkey claims progress in EU bid

(AFP)
Filed on December 31, 2012

Turkey claimed Monday it has made progress over the last year toward accession to the European Union, rejecting accusations by the 27-nation bloc against its human rights record and reform efforts.

“Our government has become the most reformist government in Europe despite all political obstacles,” EU Minister Egemen Bagis said in the introduction to a report published for the first time by Ankara since it began entry talks in 2005.

The report, which was published on the ministry’s official website, comes after Ankara slammed the 27-nation bloc’s annual report on the Turkish bid as “biased” and “unbalanced.”

In its report released in October, the EU said Turkey’s bid to join the European Union stalled due to shortcomings in democratic reforms.

It also criticised lack of sufficient progress in improving the country’s human-rights record.

The foreign ministry charged that the report focused on shortcomings in the Turkish bid rather than on the reform effort itself.

Turkey’s own report lists sector by sector the reforms undertaken by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government over the past year and responds to the criticism levelled by the EU’s progress report.

It cited, for example, what it called improvements in freedom of expression, human rights, the judicial process and economic performance.

“This report has been drafted not only as a reaction to the EU’s own progress report but at the same time to highlight our country’s determination to press ahead with reforms,” Bagis said in a separate statement.

“The report represents Turkey’s self-confidence and a challenge to the paralysed mentality in Europe,” he said.

Turkey first sought to become an EU member 25 years ago but only launched formal accession talks in 2005 and they have made little progress since then because of the quarrel with Cyprus as well as stiff opposition from some member states.

Brussels has opened only 13 of the 35 policy chapters that every state must negotiate in order to join the bloc. Just one chapter has been successfully closed.

Besides opposition from France, along with Austria and Germany, the talks have stalled over problems relating to the ethnic Greek government of EU member Cyprus, a Mediterranean island divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Only Ankara recognises the Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north.

In a New Year message, President Abdullah Gul said EU membership would remain one of Turkey’s priorities.

“We believe that the EU has vital interests in full membership as much as Turkey has,” he said.





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