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EU says Turkish rights record compromising accession bid

Turkish human rights and foreign relations are reportedly compromising the country's efforts toward European Union (EU) accession, receiving mixed reviews [press release] Wednesday in the European Commission's annual reports on enlargement strategy and candidate progress [reports, PDF]. According to the reports, "[c]oncerns remain in a number of areas, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, civilian oversight of the military and women's rights." Turkey was lauded for signing [JURIST news report] a landmark accord with Armenia last week that is expected to normalize relations between the two countries and open up borders, and for playing a positive role in the Western Balkans. In these areas, Turkey's progress report was evaluated in good standing as pertaining to EU common foreign and security policy. Relations with Cyprus continue to compromise Turkey's candidacy, despite an ongoing settlement negotiation with Cyprus under UN auspices. The Commission found in particular that Turkey is far from achieving full non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement [materials], with the country's refusal to open its ports to Cyprian vessels as an obstacle to the free movement of goods and lack of communication between air traffic control centres to the detriment of safety in the transportation sector.

Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward accession to the EU [criteria materials]. In May, an EU advisory council said that Turkey should do more [JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights, and various other efforts in order to further its request for accession. Earlier that month, secular judges in Turkey warned [JURIST report] the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] that proposed constitutional amendments were going too far in promoting an Islamic agenda. Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the EU since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. Earlier this year, a report [text, PDF, in Turkish] by advocacy group Tesev [advocacy website] argued that Turkish property rights still fell short [JURIST report] of those required to join the EU. Last year, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] addressed the Turkish parliament [JURIST report] to applaud the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST report] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.

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