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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 05:16 GMT
Turkey urged to speed up reforms
Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

The flags of Turkey and the EU fly in front of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey,  Oct. 4, 2005
Will Turkey ever satisfy the EU's entry requirements?
The European Commission will call on Turkey to speed up political reforms if it is to make progress towards membership of the European Union.

The call comes in an annual progress report, due out next Tuesday.

The report says Turkey needs to do more to safeguard freedom of expression, civilian control over the military and the rights of Kurds and non-Muslims.

The commission will also warn EU hopefuls in the Balkans they need to tackle corruption and ethnic prejudice.

The report is especially tough, according to one EU official, because for two years in a row nothing much has happened to improve fundamental rights in Turkey.

The commission urges Ankara to renew the momentum of political reform if it is to make progress towards EU membership in the next year.

Constitutional crisis

According to the report, the Turkish legal system does not fully guarantee freedom of expression, and the country has made no progress on ensuring cultural diversity by protecting minorities such as the Kurds in accordance with European standards.

It also criticises the military for commenting on issues beyond its remit.

But the report does conclude that Turkey's democracy has emerged stronger after the constitutional crisis which pitched the country's generals against the ruling AK party, which has roots in political Islam.

The European Commission urges Turkey to maintain good relations with its neighbours, but makes no mention of Ankara's threat to target rebel Kurdish forces based in Iraq.

If Turkey looks many years away from achieving EU membership, so do most countries in the Balkans.

Croatia, which started EU membership talks along with Turkey in 2005, may join the EU by the end of the decade, but only if it speeds up the reform of its judiciary and the fight against corruption.

Throughout the Balkans, the report says, organised crime and ethnic tensions raise serious concern, while corruption remains entrenched and the measures being taken are not sufficient to deal with the problem.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: Turkey
23 Oct 07 |  Country profiles
UK vows to back Turkey's EU bid
05 Sep 07 |  Europe

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