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EU says Turkish membership “still an objective” after setback

The European Union remains committed to membership for Turkey even after the process was slowed down last week, the EU's current presidency said.

“Turkey's accession is still an objective,'' said Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of this month. “Perhaps the train has slowed down but the destination is still the same.” The European Commission, the EU's executive body, on November 29 called for 25% of Turkey's membership talks with the EU to be suspended after Turkey refused to meet a pledge to lift its embargo on EU member Cyprus. The recommendation, which still must be ratified by the EU's 25 member states, slowed down a process already expected to take 10 years or more. Vanhanen told a joint meeting of European Parliament members and EU member states' lawmakers in Brussels today that the commission's recommendation forms a “good basis” for decision.

Jose Barroso, the commission's president, told the lawmakers that candidates for membership have to respect their commitments as the EU views possible enlargement beyond existing members. “Speed of progress toward enlargement depends on results” including respect for the rule of law, Barroso said. EU anger has been growing after Turkey backtracked on a pledge to end the curbs on Cyprus in return for winning the go- ahead to start accession negotiations 14 months ago. The Turkish government now says this step requires the bloc to allow trade with a part of Cyprus occupied by Turkey for three decades. The commission's recommendation reflects broader anxieties about admitting Turkey, which would be the first mainly Muslim member and one of the bloc's most populous nations. The Turkish embargo is a lightning rod for criticism that extends to demands for more Turkish media and religious freedoms. (Bloomberg)