EU's Barroso arrives in Turkey to push democratic reforms
(dpa) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso arrived in Ankara on Thursday where he is expected to urge Turkey to reform its laws governing freedom of speech and avoid the imposition of secularism by force if it wishes to join the European Union.
"The EU can only accept a democratic Turkey, a Turkey where there is consensus on democratic values. That is why we are concerned by recent developments, which are something (that is) not normal in a stable democratic country," Barroso said in Brussels on Wednesday.
The commission president was referring to an ongoing court case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the moderate Islamist party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which judges are threatening to close down.
"I hope the constitutional court will take a decision based on law, based on democracy and the respect for the standards that we have in Europe," Barroso said.
Barroso will also press Turkey to revise its infamous Article 301, which makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness."
Positive developments in these fields, he said, would have "a major impact in the way Turkey is seen by Europe."
The Turkish government has already sent to parliament a bill to amend Article 301.
On his first visit to Turkey as president of the European Commission, Barroso and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn are scheduled to visit President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Barroso was also to address the Turkish parliament later on Thursday.