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EU welcomes result of Turkish referendum

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON — Agence France-Presse | 9/13/2010 12:00:00 AM |

The European Commission welcomed the approval of constitutional changes by Turkish voters in a referendum Sunday, calling them a step in the right direction.

The European Commission welcomed the approval of constitutional changes by Turkish voters in a referendum Sunday, calling them a step in the right direction.

"These reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey's efforts toward fully complying with [EU] accession criteria," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.

Some 58 percent of Turkish voters approved the controversial constitutional changes to reshape the judiciary and curb the military's powers, according to provisional results announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Fule said the result "demonstrates the continued commitment of Turkish citizens to reforms in view of enhancing their rights and freedoms.

"However, their impact on the ground will depend on their actual implementation," he noted.

"We share the views of many in Turkey that today's vote needs to be followed by other much-needed reforms to address the remaining priorities in the area of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion," said Fule.

The commissioner added: "We agree with those across the political spectrum in Turkey who believe that a new civilian constitution would provide a solid base for a sustained development of democracy in Turkey, in line with European standards and the EU accession criteria."

Turkey, which is negotiating its entry into the EU, still has a Constitution that was put in place following a 1980 coup, one of four military interventions that have unseated elected governments in Turkey since 1960.

[HH] Obama hails 'vibrancy' of Turkish democracy

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the "vibrancy of Turkish democracy" after almost 80 percent of voters turned out for the referendum.

The White House said Obama had called Erdoğan and congratulated him on Turkey's hosting of the World Basketball Championship. After Obama made the call, the U.S. defeated the Turkish team to win the gold medal.

"The president also acknowledged the vibrancy of Turkey's democracy as reflected in the turnout for the referendum that took place across Turkey today," the statement said.

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