EU urged to play fair on Turkey's membership

8th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Independent Commission on Turkey, comprised of former European leaders and senior officials, said that obstacles placed in Ankara's path after it started the talks have led to a drop in public support for EU membership.

Brussels -- European Union leaders must play fair with Turkey in its EU membership talks to help break a vicious circle that threatens to derail Ankara's hopes of joining, according to a report Monday.

The Independent Commission on Turkey, comprised of former European leaders and senior officials, said that obstacles placed in Ankara's path after it started the talks have led to a drop in public support for EU membership.

"Unfortunately, negative statements by some European leaders..., efforts to substitute alternative arrangements to accession as the agreed objective and obstacles put in the way of the negotiations have all but derailed the process," said the report.

Turkey began accession talks in October 2005 after the move was endorsed by EU leaders. It was warned that the process would probably last more than a decade, with no guarantee that it would be allowed to join in any case.

France and Germany now prefer a "privileged partnership" with Turkey rather than full membership.

To join the EU, aspirants must open and close 35 policy negotiating areas, or chapters.

Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. But eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Cyprus, which has been divided between ethnic Turkish and Greek sides since 1974.

France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.

"European governments must honour their commitments and treat Turkey with fairness and the respect it deserves," said the commission, which includes former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and ex-French premier Michel Rocard.

But it also warned Turkey to do more to re-ignite the reform process.

"Turkey, including both its government and opposition, has to encourage its many supporters in Europe through a dynamic, broad-based reform process, thus confirming that it is willing and serious in its ambition to join the EU."

The commission also underlined that resolving the Cyprus standoff would also "remove a pernicious obstacle to Turkey's EU accession process."

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned countries hostile to Ankara's EU bid that their opposition was planting "doubts" in the minds of Turks and slowing the pace of reform.

"The negative voices that we keep hearing from some countries in the EU just spread doubt among our citizens and impede our efforts to continue reforms," he wrote in an opinion piece in Sweden's paper of reference Dagens Nyheter.

AFP/Expatica

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