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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Analysis: Turkey's EU-friendly reforms

By Pam O'Toole
BBC regional analyst

Turkey's parliament has adopted a seventh package of far-reaching reforms designed to smooth the country's way to eventual membership of the European Union.

Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's prime minister says joining the EU is his top priority

The latest legislation - which reduces the influence of the country's powerful military in politics - was rushed through just before parliament broke for its summer recess.

Ankara is hoping that by adopting these reforms - and allowing enough time to demonstrate that it is implementing them - it can prove to the EU that it is ready to start accession talks by the end of next year.

These latest reforms are part of a number over the past year the Turkish parliament has adopted, many of which are aimed at bringing Turkey's laws up to European standards on issues such as minority rights and human rights.

Crucial report

They include the abolition of the death penalty, a variety of measures paving the way for Kurdish language broadcasting and education, and the scrapping of a controversial article used to prosecute those accused of spreading separatist propaganda.

These latest reforms are another vital building block in that process.

Most of the reform packages have been adopted since the Justice and Development Party came to power in November.

The party's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quickly made it clear that furthering Turkey's bid to join the EU would be his top priority.

The European Commission will report back on Turkey's latest progress this October.

But it will be another year before it produces another crucial report which will decide if and when accession talks with Turkey can start.

By pushing these reform packages through so quickly, Ankara is giving itself a clear 12 months to prove to the EU that it can make them work in practice.

European diplomatic sources say that Europe will need to be convinced that the spirit of the reforms has trickled down to bureaucrats who implement policies on the ground.

But some sceptics question whether Turkey can make enough progress to convince any EU governments who might be opposed to Turkish membership.

This might not be just on the grounds of policies, but because they are privately reluctant to admit a large, geographically distant and relatively poor country with a largely Muslim population.

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