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EU Calls for Turkey to Speed Reforms


Luxembourg Foreign Minister and President of the EU Council Jean Asselborn, right, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul during a media conference
The European Union says Turkey should speed up reforms if it wants talks on joining the 25-nation European Union to be a success. The development comes out of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Formal negotiations on Turkey's eventual admission to the European Union start in October and could go on for many years. To join, Turkey must comply with EU political, human rights and economic standards.

Luxembourg foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, says faster reforms mean faster results. He is heard through an interpreter.

"The speed with which accession negotiations proceed will depend on the pace of the reform process in Turkey," he said through an interpreter. "Determined, effective and overall implementation of the reforms will be decisive for the success of the whole accession process."

Foreign Minister Asselborn says areas of concern include freedom of religion, protection of minorities, exercise of cultural rights, social rights, discrimination and relations between civil society and the army. The dominant role of the Turkish military in the country's politics has been a concern for the European Union.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn acknowledged that Turkey has done a lot of work to meet European standards, but also says more must be done.

"While there has been progress in reforms, significant reforms recently in Turkey in the last couple of years, it is at the same time essential to keep up the momentum of reforms and implement them so that they become a reality in all walks of life," he said.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul, said there can always be differences or problems between the sides, but Turkey remains determined to complete the reforms.

"There is much to do on our part," he said through an interpreter. "There is legislation that needs to be adopted still. And I informed my colleagues on these issues and I renewed our determination in the implementation of the reforms. We are aware how important the implementation is."

Turkey also initialed a protocol extending an EU customs pact to Cyprus and the nine other new EU states that joined last May. The measure, which normalizes trade relations with the Greek Cypriot government, must still be signed by Ankara.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a Greek-Cypriot coup. Turkey does not recognize the Greek-Cypriot government, but the lesser step of trade normalization is a requirement for EU membership talks to start in October.

EU officials say mostly Islamic Turkey can become a bridge between Europe and the Islamic world as it completes reforms and eventually enters the 25-nation group.

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