The European Union has given Turkey a mid-December deadline to open its ports to ships from Cyprus. If it fails to do so, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has warned there will be consequences for the Turkish bid to join the bloc. He was speaking in Brussels, unveiling a critical report on Ankara’s efforts.
“The Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the European Council in December, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations,” he told reporters.
Not only is Turkey under fire over the divided Mediterranean island whose Greek Cypriot government it does not recognize. It is also in deep water with the EU executive over the pace of its reforms which the Commission says have slowed down.
On freedom of expression, Brussels wants immediate changes to a key article of the penal code used to prosecute writers and intellectuals. It is also seeking greater efforts to strengthen religious freedom in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation, to strengthen the rights of women, minorities and trade unions and civilian control over the military.
Speaking in Rome, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul maintained his country is determined to satisfy all the European Union’s requirements on reforms.
“We want to make sure that Turkey will become more and more democratic and meet all the criteria that have been set by the EU,” he said.
However, in a statement released in response to the report, Ankara rejected any linkage between the Cyprus issue and its accession process, urging EU leaders to act responsibly and keep their own promises when they review Turkey’s progress at a summit next month.