Saturday

21st Jan 2017

Barroso calls on Turkey to carry out more reforms

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday (10 April) called on Turkey to speed up reforms, notably in the area of human rights, noting that the country is still far from fulfilling all EU accession criteria.

"More progress is needed on a number of key issues, such as freedom of expression, democratic primacy in civil-military relations, cultural rights, trade union rights, women's and children's rights," Mr Barroso said, speaking to the Turkish parliament.

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  • Turkey has been an EU candidate since 1999. (Photo: EUobserver)

"They are part of our common values, they are central to progress and modernity and, indeed, they are also the keys to accession," he added.

On a three-day visit to Turkey together with EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, the commission president also said he had been "surprised" by the opening of a case by the country's Constitutional Court that could eventually result in banning the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"It is not common to see this in normal, stable democratic countries," he told Turkish parliamentarians.

In addition, Mr Barroso urged Ankara to open its ports to Cypriot ships, underlining: "This is today the main obstacle for significant progress in Turkey's accession process."

Turkey does not recognise the Greek government in the southern part of the divided island, while at the same time is the only country to recognise its northern Turkish section.

Cyprus has been divided since a Turkish invasion of the island's northern part in 1974, triggered by a Greek-inspired coup.

"As you are aware, several negotiating chapters are blocked and no chapter can be closed until Turkey ensures full implementation of the additional protocol," Mr Barroso said, referring to a protocol signed in 2005 by Ankara and extending its customs union with the EU to the 10 states that joined the bloc in 2004.

However, the commission president also praised Turkey for the reforms it has conducted in the last years and said two new chapters of its EU negotiations package would be opened by July.

Turkey started accession talks in 2005 and has so far opened six out of the 35 chapters where negotiations need to be finalised before it becomes an EU member.

Bosnian parliament adopts key police reform

Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina's parliament on Thursday night approved a long-disputed police reform required as a condition by the EU before allowing the country closer to membership of the bloc.

The adopted compromise has been developed with the help of the international administrator in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajcak, while previous proposals to merge the country's two different police forces – the Serbian and Bosniak ones – had been rejected, the Associated Press reports.

It was passed by 22 to 19 votes, while one deputy abstained.

The adoption of the reform, which still has to be approved by the Upper House of the parliament, is expected to make it possible for Bosnia to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU by the end of this month.

"I want to congratulate all those who made a compromise in the interest of citizens and the state. Better days are ahead of us and also a lot of work related to the SAA signature," the country's prime minister, Nikola Spiric, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The SAA, which Bosnia initialled last December, is the first step towards EU membership for the Western Balkan countries.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

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