Thursday, November 26, 2009

Democratic Reform Process, EU Accession “Closely Linked”

The European Union praised Turkey’s efforts to grant its citizens of Kurdish origin more rights and to end the decades-old terror problem, linking it with the candidate country’s aspirations to join the union.

"The reform process in Turkey and the accession process are closely linked to each other," EU term president Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said during annual Turkey-EU Troika meeting in Istanbul. Bildt also praised the Turkish government’s pro-active foreign policy, especially in its region. “We appreciate the active Turkish role in foreign policy,” said Bildt.

The highest forum for political dialogue between the EU and Turkey convened Thursday with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış, the EU’s next term president, Spanish minister Diego Lopez Garrido, and EU representative in Ankara, Marc Pierini. EU Commissioner Olli Rehn could not make it to the meetings today.

Bildt has renewed the EU’s call for Turkey to open its ports and airspace to Greek Cyprus, but Davutoğlu said the issue would be addressed after a solution to the division of the island is reached.

Challenged by reporters over Turkey’s growing ties with Iran, Davutoğlu said that “all countries should be in a position to carry out” peaceful nuclear programs and that he wished to see “Iran better integrated with the world,” something he believes Turkey’s recent efforts will achieve.

Bildt supported Davutoglu’s statements, saying that “we do need to engage with Iran,” and that all countries have the “right to peaceful nuclear activities.”

Speaking on negative signals from the EU regarding Turkey’s EU accession process, Davutoglu said that the EU needs to “break down the Berlin wall that exists in the minds of people, not just politically, but socially and culturally”

“We will hopefully see the chapter on the environment open in December,” said Bağış. .

Diego Lopez Garrido, Secretary of State for the EU, expressed hopes for progress on Turkey’s EU accession while challenging Turkey to do more.

“Its clear that Spain is a country that believes in the accession process,” said Garrido, but “it depends on the political will. We have the political will…It depends mainly on the Turkish side.”

Asked how many negotiation chapters Garrido hopes will open under Spain’s EU presidency, he refused to give a definite answer, saying, “We can’t give a number now, because it’s not a question of mathematics.”

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