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10/16/04 - TURKEY AND E-U ACCESSION TALKS - 2004-10-12

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, recommends that talks aimed at making Turkey a member of the E-U should go ahead. Romano Prodi, the outgoing head of the commission, said, "Turkey has quite obviously reached the levels required by European standards or will achieve them when the new penal code which has just been adopted comes into force." Mr. Prodi says the E-U is responding to Turkey's reforms:

"And the response today is 'yes,' with respect to criteria and in favor of opening negotiations. But it is a qualified yes.”

The European Commission report provides for suspension of negotiations on E-U membership if Turkey falters in its human rights commitments -- a provision that will be applied to all future aspirants for E-U membership. E-U Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen says it will take time for Turkey to put E-U standards into place:

"And we need the process of reform in Turkey in order to see Turkey as a stable country based on the same values which we have in the European Union and firmly anchored in the Western world."

European leaders must approve the recommendation and are scheduled to address the issue when they meet in December. Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said, "This is a historic decision for Turkey and for Europe. It [the European Commission] has made the recommendation it had to make."

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says the European Commission's recommendation is good news:

"For our part, we welcome Turkey's strong commitment to continue reform throughout the E-U accession [process]. We welcome the E-U's positive recommendation on Turkey."

The U.S. has long supported Turkey's eventual membership in the European Union and would welcome a decision in December to set an early date to begin accession talks.