Distant cousin or near neighbour? Perceptions may differ in Europe but both sides of the internal EU debate have long agreed on the need for reform in Turkey before it can join the bloc. Ankara can claim to have ticked many items off the list of changes demanded by Brussels. These include scrapping the death penalty, enhancing minority rights, banning sexual discrimination and curtailing the role of the military.
But even after the start of entry talks more will need to be done before eventual membership not earlier than 2014. It was only last year, after decades of developing relations, that the EU agreed a deal by which this week’s entry talks could begin. Among the issues still to be dealt with is a European Parliament demand that Turks acknowledge as genocide the mass killing of Armenians 90 years ago. Ankara is also under pressure to recognise Cyprus, one of the new EU members.
It has extended its customs agreement with the Union to include Cyprus but says this does not amount to recognition of the Greek Cypriot government as the sole legitimate authority on the island. Among those wanting their voice heard is Turkey’s Kurdish minority. A demonstration in Brussels on Friday was to intended to send a message to EU negotiators that Kurds have grievances which still need to be addressed. These are just some of the obstacles Ankara will have to overcome on the long and difficult road to Brussels.