Turkey EU accession talks inch forward

Turkey EU accession talks inch forward

RENATA GOLDIROVA, 19.12.2008, euobserver

The European Union agreed to open talks on two policy areas of Turkey's 35-chapter accession package on Friday (19 December), bringing the overall number of chapters open to ten. Turkey, for its part, urged the 27-nation bloc to pressure Greece over the divided island of Cyprus.

"The European Union has a very heavy responsibility to assume. That is to say that the Greek part of the island, which is today a part of the EU, must be strongly encouraged to move towards a durable and complete solution," Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan said in Brussels.

Turkey wants Brussels to put more pressure on Cyprus to move forward with peace talks over the divided island (Photo: EU Commission)

Referring to the latest negotiations on re-unification of Cyprus, which began in September, Mr Babacan warned that the currently existing window of opportunity was not going to remain open indefinitely.

"If we leave the two leaders all alone face-to-face, they will continue their regular meetings but with no timetable, no deadlines, and it is difficult to envisage an agreement and a durable and complete solution," Mr Babacan concluded.

Turkey's chief diplomat was speaking to journalists after the 27-nation bloc gave its green light to opening talks on two additional chapters, covering the free circulation of capital and the information society and the media, of the country's accession book.

"It is an important step in the negotiation process," French European affairs minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Turkey has been an official candidate to join the EU since 1999 and opened accession negotiations with the bloc in 2005. However, the talks have been moving slowly - just one policy area has so far been successfully closed.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, for his part, said it was "time that Turkey revitalise the reforms in order to make progress with fundamental freedoms and the rule of law."

"In order to be able to open new chapters in 2009, it is imperative that Turkey accomplish a certain number of criteria in fiscal policy, social affairs, the environment and competitiveness matters," he added.