The European Parliament has warned Turkey it must speed up reforms if it wants to join the European Union. The message comes in a highly critical though non-binding report by EU lawmakers. They accuse Ankara of failing to live up to promises it made to start talks last October on joining the bloc. This adds to pressure on Turkey to open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus under an extended customs agreement.
The parliament’s political groups are deeply divided over the future with Turkey. Liberal chief Graham Watson underscored the negotiations are likely to drag on: “They (the negotiations) will probably be slower than we initially envisaged, because the pace of reforms in Turkey is slower than we hoped, and because the speed of developing a European Constitution to allow us to take in more members is slower than we hoped as well. But let’s proceed!” The report cited “insufficient progress” on freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, women’s rights and the rule of law.
The parliament also reiterated its call on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, but did not make recognition by Ankara a precondition for EU membership. On this subject, Greek socialist Panos Beglitis said: “Political pre-requisites here, concerning Turkey’s European prospects and its adhesion negotiations, must not be imposed. That would a major political fault – changing the rules in mid-game. Turkey must itself come to terms with its own history.”
Parliament has never tried to veto a country joining the bloc but has pressured EU hopefuls to speed up reforms in the past. In its next regular progress report on Turkey on Nov. 8, the European Commission has promised to take parliament’s views into account.