With opening of a new accesion chapter, Turkey solidifying ties with EU
Amid growing woes about the direction of stalled European Union accession negotiations with Turkey, Spain, a staunch supporter of Turkey's bid to join the bloc, was able to deliver the opening of one chapter yesterday, the last day of its six-month rotating EU presidency before handing the reins to Belgium. Top officials and bureaucrats from the EU and Turkey met yesterday in Brussels at an intergovernmental conference marking the opening of the EU chapter on food safety and veterinary standards. The critical move comes at a time when Turkey's ties with the West are being questioned and follows accusations from the US that the EU is pushing Turkey away. The opening of one more chapter in the negotiations process signals two things: that the EU wants to firmly anchor Turkey to the bloc and that the Turkish side is still willing to continue on the EU path. "Turkey has completed all the technical criteria and Parliament has passed all the necessary laws," said Turkey's top EU talks negotiator Egemen Bagis en route to Brussels yesterday. "It was about time we heard positive news from the EU side." It took three years for the EU to open the chapter on food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy after the screening process was completed in 2007. Agriculture and Rural Affairs Mehmet Eker, who accompanied Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu along with Bagis to the ceremony in Brussels, explained that Turkey had taken speedy steps to harmonize Turkish agricultural legislation with that of the EU. Parliament passed the Food Safety Law earlier this month after long debate. Bagis strongly criticized some EU member states for proposing resolution of the Cyprus problem as a requirement for opening new chapters. "Why wasn't this issue an obstacle for Greece or the UK, as both countries have troops on the island as guarantor states?" he asked. "How did the Greek Cypriots join the EU after they rejected the 2004 UN-sponsored plan which was accepted by the Turks in the north?"