Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a controversial proposal to outlaw adultery will not be included in his country's new penal code and will not be revived as long as he is in power. VOA's Roger Wilkison reports from Brussels that a flap over criminalizing adultery had threatened to derail Turkey's hopes of beginning negotiations to join the European Union.
Speaking to reporters at the European Parliament in Brussels after meeting with leaders of various pan-European parties there, Mr. Erdogan said there is no reason now for the European Union not to invite Turkey to begin membership negotiations.
The European Commission, the EU's executive body, is scheduled to announce on October 6 whether Turkey has met the political criteria for joining the bloc and, if so, recommend a start to membership talks. The final decision will be made by EU leaders in December.
Earlier Thursday, Mr. Erdogan said he will convene an emergency session of parliament on Sunday to debate and approve crucial revisions to Turkey's penal code that are an EU requirement for starting entry talks.
Just last week, the Turkish leader withdrew the penal code revisions from Parliament after hard-line conservative members of his party insisted that the package include a clause outlawing adultery, which is not a criminal offense in EU countries.
He told reporters Thursday, that the new penal code will not include the anti-adultery bill and that he will not seek to outlaw adultery as long as he is prime minister. But he said he cannot guarantee that future Turkish governments will follow the same policy.
"Myself and my political party and my government are bound by what is already in this law," Mr. Erdogan said. "But I cannot say what others after me will do. Others who will come after me - that will be their problem. I can only guarantee what I will do during the time of my government. This item is not included in our draft law, and there's no point in discussing something which is not included in the draft."
With Mr. Erdogan's pledge to push the penal code revisions through Parliament and his promise not to revive the anti-adultery bill, he seemed to clear the way for a positive decision by the European Commission next month on beginning entry talks with Turkey. EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen said earlier Thursday that he sees no more obstacles to what he described as a clear recommendation on starting entry talks with Turkey. But he did not say what that recommendation would be.
If all goes well for Turkey in its efforts to begin accession negotiations next year, it is still not likely to effectively join the EU until 2015 at the earliest.