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EU Wants Turkey to Speed up Democratic Reforms


European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso Thursday urged Turkey to speed up reforms needed to meet European Union membership criteria. Barroso, who is on a three-day visit to Turkey, said the country's membership in the EU would offer what he called a "powerful alternative" to militant Islam. Dorian Jones reports on Barroso's trip.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in a buoyant mood after meeting with Barroso:

He says he is confident the European Commission will support Turkey's drive for EU membership, and pledges his government is committed to introducing the required reforms.

Barroso acknowledged the latest reform proposals the Turkish government introduced last week as positive, but he said more needed to be done, especially in the area of press freedoms.

He told the Turkish parliament all applicant countries must meet the EU's membership requirements, but membership is not automatic.

He says the conditions are the same for all applicant countries and there are no guarantees they will be accepted.

That comment has interpreted by the Turkish media as a warning the EU might not accept Turkey's application.

Barroso said, however, Turkey is not the only country whose membership application met with resistance. He said Spain, and his own country, Portugal, faced opposition when they applied for membership.

The EU commission chief, while praising progress on Turkey's democratic reforms, but said progress was also needed in other areas, including limitation on the powers of the military.

He also noted the attempts to ban the Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, could harm Turkey's ties with the European Union. In his words, it is not "common for this kind of case in a stable, democratic country."

The EU opened entry talks with Turkey in 2005, but progress since then has been halted by EU's decision to partially freeze talks over Turkey's refusal to grant trading privileges to Cyprus, an EU country that Ankara does not recognize.

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