EU enlargement chief calls on Turkey to step up reforms after elections
( Cihan ) - Turkey needs to accelerate the process of reform after the general elections on Sunday to revive the currently frozen process of accession to the European Union, the EU's enlargement chief, Olli Rehn, said on Tuesday. Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005 but the bloc has frozen talks in eight of 35 policy areas over Ankara's Cyprus policy. Nicolas Sarkozy's election as French president has also strained ties, as he is opposed to Turkey joining the EU.
Speaking in an interview with the German press, Rehn said: "Last year the reform process slowed down, but after the parliamentary elections we expect Turkey to step up its reform push again and to make progress in the direction of the EU... Progress is needed with regard to freedom of belief and religion. Only then can the membership negotiations get a new thrust."
The EU suspended accession talks in the eight policy areas because Turkey refused to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Cyprus, a country Ankara does not recognise.
"Negotiations on the (eight) individual chapters cannot be concluded until Turkey opens its ports," Rehn said.
Turkey's ruling centre-right AK Party, which denies any Islamist agenda, is widely expected to win the July 22 election but possibly with a reduced majority.
The AK Party has presided over strong economic growth, falling inflation and the historic launch of the EU accession talks since sweeping to power in November 2002.