GOTHENBURG–Sweden (Reuters)–European Union leaders said on Saturday Turkey–a candidate for membership–had to do more to clean up its human rights record before it could move closer to joining the wealthy 15-nation bloc.
In a final statement after a two-day summit dominated by the EU’s enlargement plans–the leaders said Turkey needed to implement reforms required of all countries wishing to join.
“In a number of areas–such as human rights–further progress is needed,” the document said.
“Turkey is urged to take concrete measures to implement the priorities of the accession partnership.”
Accepted as a candidate country in December 1999–Turkey has yet to begin its accession talks because of the concerns over its human rights record and commitment to democratic values.
It is also at odds with the EU over Cyprus–another candidate country. Turkish troops occupy the northern part of the island in violation of U.N. resolutions.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit–who along with leaders of the other 12 candidates attended a lunch in Gothenburg with the EU chiefs–welcomed Saturday’s statement.
“The European Council (of EU leaders) has demonstrated that the efforts for Turkey’s process towards full membership will continue unabated. This is a welcome development,” he said in a written statement.
“Rapid steps that will be taken in this process will help us reach our goal and will enable us to reach our objectives within the enlargement process,” he said.
The statement also urged Turkey to “vigorously” implement an economic program agreed with the IMF to create the conditions for economic recovery following its recent financial crash.
In their statement–the EU leaders also referred indirectly to a separate row with Turkey over the setting up of an EU military rapid reaction force.
NATO member Turkey has blocked a deal on the new force–demanding a bigger say in decision-making before agreeing to allow the force automatic access to the alliance’s assets.
“Rapid agreement is called for on arrangemen’s permitting EU access to NATO assets and capabilities,” the statement said.
Asked about Turkey’s relations with the EU–Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told Reuters he hoped Ankara would show a stronger desire to resolve the Cyprus issue. The island is expected to be in the first wave of EU enlargement.
“There is a great opportunity for a solution as we can bring both Greek and Turkish Cypriots into the EU,” he said.
“Under a new constitution… there would be a very positive European prospect for both. All aspects can be solved in the European framework–including protection of minorities–human rights and so forth,” Papandreou said.