Turkey Nowhere Near Ready for EU Talks

BERLIN (Reuters)–Turkey is nowhere near ready to join the European Union and must make progress on human rights and democracy if it is to start accession talks before 2005–EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen said on Thursday.

“I would only recommend–if I do at all during my term ending in 2005–negotiating with Turkey if I am sure that we are dealing with a different Turkey,” Verheugen told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The FAZ–which released extracts of an interview with Verheugen due to be published on Friday–also quoted the German commissioner as saying that Turkey was “not ripe” for entry talks to begin.

Continuing human rights violations had put in doubt plans for the EU to sign a partnership accord with Turkey this autumn–Verheugen also told the newspaper–without elaborating.

Germany is open in principle to admitting Turkey to the EU as long as concerns on respecting human rights and democratic principles are resolved–but Verheugen’s commen’s ruling out early progress were unusually strongly worded.

He did have words of encouragement for the dozen mainly eastern European countries in EU membership talks–saying that only Bulgaria and Romania would struggle to agree to join between 2003 and 2005.

He also rejected suggestions that Germany’s eastern neighbor–Poland–was lagging behind in the negotiating process. The European Commission is due to publish progress reports on the entry talks on November 8.

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