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Turkey to open new chapter in EU membership talks

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News | 6/29/2010 12:00:00 AM | Sevil KÜÇÜKKOŞUM

Turkey expects the next EU chapter of negotiations to open at a conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

Turkey expects the next chapter of European Union negotiations focusing on food safety, veterinary safety and phytosanitation to be opened at an intergovernmental conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

The conference will discuss the 13th chapter of Turkey’s EU accession package that was begun when Turkey and the bloc launched negotiations in 2005.

Turkey, facing difficulties in opening new chapters in the EU negotiation process, is set to open at least one chapter before Spain’s EU term presidency concludes. Ankara accelerated its internal technical process in order to open the food safety chapter.

Egemen Bağış, a state minister and chief negotiator to the EU, said Parliament had passed all necessary laws on June 16 and had requested President Abdullah Gül to verify the laws the next day.

“They were published in the official gazette on Sunday and we handed over the file to the European Commission on Monday,” Bağış told reporters at an EU seminar Saturday.

There are 35 chapters that Turkey needs to fulfill to attain EU membership. Twelve chapters have been opened so far, while eight chapters remain totally blocked due to Ankara's failure to open its borders to EU member Greek Cyprus.

Diplomatic sources have highlighted the difficulties Turkey faces in opening more negotiation chapters.

“Some 18 chapters [in total] are blocked due to political reasons. So we are left with three chapters that can be opened after the food safety chapter. Those chapters are public procurement, competition policy and social policy and employment,” one diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Turkey has almost completed its preparations on the public procurement and competition policy chapters. If the Parliament passes two laws regarding those chapters we can launch negotiations on those by the end of 2010," the source said.

[HH] EU is incoherent in criticism

Turkish Foreign Minister Spokesman Burak Özügergin, meanwhile, criticized the EU for first refusing to open negotiation chapters before accusing Turkey of shifting its axis.

“We expect consistency from the EU. You don’t open negotiation chapters but then say ‘your axis is shifted.’ The EU should be coherent,” Özügergin said at a press conference Monday.

“There are 18 chapters which are blocked and we expect Belgium's rotating EU presidency to remove defects caused by the EU in the following period,” Özügergin said. “The EU should consider where it wants to go with Turkey. Turkey recognizes EU membership as a strategic target.”

Reiterating that the food safety, veterinary safety and phytosanitation chapter is expected to be opened on Wednesday, Özügergin said Spain had made extraordinary efforts to open the chapter to negotiation.

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