THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende held firm on Friday against giving Turkey a date for starting talks about joining the European Union.
"The Dutch government is of the opinion that we should not mention the date for negotiations," Balkenende–speaking in English–told reporters after meeting Tayyip Erdogan–the leader of Turkey’s ruling party. The Netherlands has taken a tough stance–saying Turkey should only be given a date after reviewing whether it has implementing key human rights and democracy reforms. Diplomats in Brussels say the EU is inching towards giving Turkey a conditional date for opening accession talks provided it makes key moves on domestic reform–Cyprus and European defense within two weeks. Erdogan reaffirmed his government’s determination to implement radical human (Continued from front page) rights reforms.
"During our administration there will be zero tolerance for torture. That problem will be dealt with definitely," he told reporters.
Erdogan–whose Justice and Development party won Turkey’s general election this month–has been touring Europe to persuade EU leaders to set a date for accession talks when they meet at an EU summit in Copenhagen on December 12.