A new year and a renewed effort to boost Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is in town – Hasselt in Belgium to be exact – ahead of three days of talks in Brussels aimed at breathing new life into his country’s bid to join the bloc. Turkey began accession discussions in 2005 but things seem to have slowed as the EU awaits long asked for political and legal reforms. In what is seen a sign that the delayed changes might soon be given a push, Erdogan is accompanied by Ankara’s first full time EU negotiator. But with only ten of the 35 points stipulated by the EU Commission, currently being addressed, the negotiator’s brief is complex. A major sticking point is Turkey’s relations with Cyprus.The bloc has frozen eight dossiers in the accession talks because Ankara refuses to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots. Freedom of movement within the Union is a requirement of membership. And rising tension back home between the Islamic – rooted ruling AK Party and the secularist establishment has added to European scepticism over whether Erdogan’s Turkey should join the club at all.