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German FM: Turkey deserves fairness
by Staff Writers
Istanbul, Turkey (UPI) Oct 25, 2011

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Turkey deserves fairness and respect from the European Union in its stalled bid to join the EU bloc, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle says.

Westerwelle chided the EU Saturday in Istanbul during an appearance with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, less than a month after the bloc issued a report on Turkey's accession process that cited little progress on thorny issues such as the divided island of Cyprus.

"There is no progress toward normalization of bilateral relations with the (Greek-held) Republic of Cyprus," the report said, asserting the country needs to make improvements on free speech for journalists and deal with its record trade deficit.

The assessment prompted cries of unfairness from Erdogan, who slammed the European Union for "slinging mud" at Turkey.

Westerwelle, whose country opposes Turkey's EU bid but wants the accession process to continue, joined in the criticism of the EU Saturday, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The "European Union should act respectful and fair to Turkey in the negotiation process," Westerwelle said, adding that the process should keep moving forward and not be frozen -- as Erdogan has threatened to do if the Greek Cypriots are awarded the rotating EU presidency next year.

Instead, the two parties should move on to the next chapter of the "acquis communautaire" of Turkey's EU accession bid, a 33-part set of guidelines Ankara must complete for acceptance.

"Once the train has stopped, it is very difficult to get it moving again," the German foreign minister said. "Therefore, the train should not stop and the next chapter, which is the competition chapter, should open soon."

With the EU's findings of no new progress, Turkey's 7-year bid for membership remained stalemated. Germany and other EU members are troubled by Ankara's refusal to allow Greek Cypriot ships and planes to enter its ports and airspace as well as by delays in normalizing relations with Nicosia.

Turkey, meanwhile, wants the EU to lift a de facto embargo on the Turkish enclave in northern Cyprus, the Voice of America reported.

Erdogan this month said no further dialogue with the EU would be forthcoming unless the Greek Cypriots rectify injustices shown toward the island's Turkish population, adding it had become a "matter of honor."

He also hinted Ankara's once-strong desire to join the European bloc is diminishing in the face of the EU's sovereign debt crisis.

"The progress report has once again shown the serious eclipse of reason at the EU," he told Hurriyet. "Turkey is closer to EU norms than ever and we all know why things are actually stuck," he said.

Europe's state of affairs, he added, "is evident: They are crumbling, their currency is in disarray. But Turkey is up on its feet and not thanks to them but to its own people."

The prime minister said Turkey would nonetheless continue to implement reforms called for by the EU. The report praised Turkey's moves under its constitutional reform process began last year as well as June's "free and fair" parliamentary elections.

Among the positive actions, the report noted, was the creation of a specific ministry for EU affairs. This, it said, "is an encouraging signal for Turkey's reform efforts to meet the EU accession criteria."

But Erdogan warned that abandoning the Turkish Cypriots will "not be the price we pay to overcome obstructions" in the accession process, Hurriyet reported.

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