(dpa) - Turkey is passing through a more critical phase than at any time since its negotiations to join the European Union began three years ago, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in an interview published Monday.
Speaking to the German daily Welt, Rehn predicted Turkey could emerge with its democratic institutions strengthened, provided that all sides showed willingness to compromise and the necessary reforms were pushed through.
The EU should stand by its commitments on Turkish accession, while Turkey had to play its part by sticking to its reform course, he said.
"We expect freedom of expression for all. We expect that the rights of women and minorities are protected," Rehn said. The EU has been particularly critical of strict laws governing the offence of "insulting Turkishness."
Turkey has dragged its feet on changing the controversial Article 301 law, under which writers have been prosecuted in the past.
Asked about the consequences of action by Turkey's attorney general to have the ruling AKP banned on constitutional grounds, Rehn said this would harm the reform process.
Regarding slow progress on the accession process, which began in 2005, Rehn said six of 35 chapters in the process had been opened and a further two - business law and intellectual property - would be opened in June.
Further chapters, including energy, would be opened under the French EU presidency in the second half of the year, he said.