EU chiefs urge Turkish govt to press ahead with reforms

European Union chiefs called on Turkey to push ahead with pro-EU reforms after the country's Islamist-rooted ruling party narrowly escaped being outlawed, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy Javier Solana and Guenter Verheugen, number two in the European Commission, called on Ankara to accelerate the reforms aimed at preparing Turkey for EU accession, the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper said in a report to be published on Sunday.

“Turkey is a candidate for (EU) accession; nothing has changed regarding this,” the report quoted Solana as saying in the wake of last Wednesday’s constitutional court judgement.

Six of the court’s 11 judges voted in favor of closing down the ruling AKP – just one short of the seven required to implement a ruling – but the court decided to punish the party with financial sanctions instead.

Verheugen said EU accession negotiations depended on implementation of the reforms which have already been before the Turkish parliament.

“These (reforms) must not just stay on paper, they must be made into an irrevocable social reality,” he said.

He said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “only has one chance – he must accelerate the policy of modernisation and liberalisation of Turkey in an even more determined way.“

Turkey’s reform process has been held up for a year by the political standoff between the AKP and powerful forces, including the army, who are defending Turkey’s secular values.

If the judges had voted for the ban on the AKP, the programme would have fallen by the wayside.

Ankara has so far opened accession talks in only six of the 35 policy areas candidates are required to complete amid a trade row over Cyprus and strong opposition to its membership in some EU countries, notably France.