EU parliament predicts "long-lasting" Turkey EU accession talks
The European Parliament refrained from explicitly backing Turkey's European Union accession on Wednesday, amid growing signs of disenchantment with the preceding negotiations, dpa reported.
In their annual resolution on Turkey, EU lawmakers stated that the entry talks, which started in October 2005, are only "the starting point for a long-lasting and open-ended process."
The document is non-binding, but is seen as a bellwether of EU political opinion over the controversial issue of Turkish accession.
Deputies from the conservative European People's Party (EPP) wanted to go further, with a call on EU institutions to "study the possibility" of establishing a "privileged partnership" with Turkey, as opposed to granting it full membership.
That solution has often been mentioned by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy - leading EPP leaders.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (SD) wanted to reiterate that EU-Turkey talks pointed towards "the common goal of full EU membership."
The final wording was the reflection of a compromise between the two groups, following the same lines of what was decided by the assembly in 2010.
The message was delivered as EU-Turkey negotiations were close to a standstill, with no progress being registered over the last eight months - the longest period ever since they were launched.
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the talks were facing "a very serious deadlock."
The EU assembly singled out Turkey for its "slow progress" on reforms and human rights over 2010, focusing on usual stumbling blocks such as the Cyprus issue, press and religious freedom, and gender equality, and urging it go further on constitutional reforms.
On a more positive note, lawmakers heeded Turkish demands for a relaxation of border controls for its EU-bound citizens, as they called for EU governments to agree to a "visa dialogue" that could see entry conditions being eased for businessmen and students.
EU officials taking part in the debate that on Tuesday preceded parliament's vote insisted that the bloc was still committed to advancing the talks with Turkey.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said he was "confident" negotiations could restart "soon" on competition - one of the 35 technical dossiers, or "chapters," through which EU accession talks are broken down.
"It would be a very difficult moment for the EU if Turkey were to be lost," said Hungary's state minister for EU affairs, Eniko Gyori, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency.