Top EU officials in Turkey amid political tensions

European Commission President Barroso arrived for talks here Thursday as simmering political tensions pose a new threat to Turkey's bid to join EU.

Top EU officials in Turkey amid political tensions
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso arrived for talks here Thursday as simmering political tensions pose a new threat to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Barroso, accompanied by Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, is expected to urge Ankara to re-focus on reforms demanded by the EU when he meets President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and parliamentary opposition leaders later Thursday.

The visit comes as a pending court case threatens Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with closure on charges of seeking to undermine Turkey's secular order.

EU officials have slammed the prospect of a ban on the AKP as undemocratic, Rehn warning that Turkey's accession talks could be derailed.

The AKP has disowned its religious roots and pledged commitment to democracy, launching a series of reforms that led to the start of Turkey's EU accession talks in 2005. It was re-elected to a second term in July with almost 47 percent of the vote.

AKP supporters see the court case as a fresh attack against their party by hardline secularists, whose prominent members include senior judges, the military and some academics.

Turkey has so far opened talks on only six of the 35 policy chapters EU candidates must complete before accession. Brussels froze negotiations on eight chapters in 2006 over Turkey's refusal to grant trade privileges to EU member Greek Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognise.

Opposition to Turkey's accession by some EU members, including France and Germany, has also slowed progress of the talks.

Last Mod: 11 Nisan 2008, 07:55
Add Comment