The first visit to EU headquarters by a Turkish head of state – Abdullah Gül. The guest said talks took place in “a family atmosphere”. But, in spite of a warm welcome from European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Turkey’s path to acceptance by the EU bloc still needs straightening out.
The Turkish president re-confirmed his people would not be put off: “This is a process of adapting to the European Union standards and Turkey is determined, everybody is determined because it is a strategic process for us. It also belongs to the Turkish people, and will continue to in the future. Let no one have any doubt about that.” Turkey has been negotiating as an official candidate to join the EU since 2005. However, while Gul’s and other visits have won praise as a signal of Turkey’s commitment, reforms have slowed. In response to current accusations that the government has tried to stop newspaper criticism, Barroso told Gul how Europe prizes freedom of the press. But he was optimistic of opening new negotiating chapters before the middle of this year. Of 35, just one chapter has been completed. Cyprus has blocked the process, partly over exclusion from Turkish ports and air space. The pressure is on, as an EU report on Turkey’s efforts is due this autumn.