As progress report released, EU calls for closer cooperation with candidate Turkey
The European Union's executive arm yesterday called for support for further EU enlargement, saying the accession process with Turkey and countries in the Western Balkans gives it greater influence in a vast region spanning the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Danube basin. In a strategy paper released on Tuesday along with annual progress reports on candidate countries including Turkey, the EU Commission noted Turkey's growing foreign policy activism and said it could be a significant asset for the EU. The EU Commission's calls come amid growing European skepticism towards the accession of new members, as several members of the 27-nation bloc are still battling the global financial crisis. The strategy paper and the accompanying annual progress report make clear that Turkey, a candidate since 1999, still has a long way to go for membership. The EU Commission noted that Turkey has continued its political reform process, praising a set of constitutional amendments passed in a Sept. 12. referendum. The lengthy document also says an investigation into the Ergenekon plot and other coup plans "remain an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law." It said President Abdullah Gul continues "to play an active conciliatory role promoting dialogue between the main political parties and endeavoring to ensure the sound operation of state bodies." It said the positive trend on preventing torture and ill-treatment continues and freedom of worship continues to be generally respected. On the government's efforts to address the Kurdish issue, the report said the government's Kurdish initiative "was only partly followed through," despite public statements of commitment. On Cyprus, whose division hampers progress in Turkey's accession process, the Commission noted Ankara's continued refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus. "Despite repeated calls by the Council and the Commission, Turkey still has not complied with its obligations," the progress report said.