EU’s Rehn Says Turkey Must Press Ahead with EU Sought Changes

(Bloomberg)–Turkey must keep implementing measures needed to join the European Union as it prepares for membership talks in October–EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Turkey should continue to strengthen minority and women’s rights in all areas of the country–including the mainly Kurdish southeast–Rehn told reporters in Ankara late yesterday after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

“It’s very important that the momentum of the reforms is kept up–that Turkey keeps up the momentum of the legal–political and also increasingly the economic reforms especially as regards the implementation of these reforms,” Rehn said.

Turkey says the membership talks with the EU will help it reduce the cost of $250 billion in debt and attract foreign investment. Hansjoerg Kretschmer–the head of the European Commission in Turkey–last week said Turkey’s implementation of EU-backed laws had slowed since it won a date to start membership talks with the EU three months ago.

The EU will run the so-called “screening process” for membership parallel with accession negotiations when talks with Turkey begin in October–Rehn said. Turkey before then should maintain zero tolerance for torture and respect freedom of expression and the rights of non-Muslims–he said.

The United States and Britain says the EU must embrace a country that’s both Muslim and democratic to help win the war on terror and encourage democracy in the Middle East. Turkey–which became a candidate for membership of the EU in 1999–borders countries including Iraq–Iran–Syria and Armenia.

Outline for Change

The European Union aims to publish a framework for the negotiations with Turkey by the end of June–Rehn said. The document outlines the political and economic steps the nation must take before it can join the 25-nation EU.

“The work will have to go on–the reforms have to be consolidated and continued,” he said. “This means that we will continue monitoring and we will support the reform work done by Turkey to make the rule of law apply in all walks of life–in all areas of Turkey. This is a process–not a one-stop.”

Rehn–Gul and Jean Asselborn–the foreign minister of Luxembourg–which currently holds the EU presidency–will meet in Ankara today for talks on Turkey’s candidacy. They are due to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. local time.

Turkey can’t join the EU because its culture and history isn’t sufficiently European–say EU politicians including Nicolas Sarkozy–leader of French President Jacques Chirac’s Union for a Popular Movement Party. Chirac last year said the talks may take 15 years to complete.

The EU’s political leaders agreed at a summit on Dec. 17 to start the negotiations with Turkey after the government curbed the political influence of the military and improved cultural and language rights for the nation’s 12 million Kurds.

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