EU Tells Turkey, Croatia, To Step Up Reforms

09:54, 09 December 2008
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Diplomats cited Zagreb`s...

Talks on Croatia`s entry to the European Union are on the right track but Zagreb still needs to step up reforms, European Union governments said on Monday, but avoided setting a target date for the end of entry discussions, according to

Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels also said EU aspirant Turkey had made little progress on reforms required for entry to the 27-nation bloc over the past year and needed to redouble its efforts.

The bloc`s Executive Commission said last month Croatia`s entry talks could be concluded by next year, provided the former Yugoslav republic took the right steps.

But ministers did not set any timetable.

Diplomats cited Zagreb`s long-running border dispute with EU member Slovenia, alongside doubts about its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the opposition of some EU states to setting target dates for aspirant countries.

In October, Slovenia blocked Croatia`s accession talks over a 17-year-old row about their sea and land border. Slovenia said it was concerned that documentation offered by Croatia in the talks could be prejudicial to the outcome of the border dispute.

France and Germany insist there can be no further expansion of the bloc until all member states ratify a reform treaty designed to strengthen its creaking institutions.

Ministers said progress was still expected from Croatia in judicial, administrative and economic reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the protection of minorities, the return of refugees, and the prosecution of war crimes.

"LIMITED PROGRESS" FROM TURKEY Foreign ministers at the meeting told Turkey it needed to take EU-required reforms off the backburner.

Turkey started EU entry talks in 2005 along with Croatia, but Ankara`s progress has stalled, partly over its refusal to normalise relations with EU member Cyprus, a stance ministers once again criticised.

"The (EU) Council is disappointed to note that over the year just passed Turkey has made only limited progress, particularly as regards political reforms," ministers said.

They "hoped that Turkey will now redouble its efforts to implement the measures so long awaited."

Ministers said Turkey should do more to reform its judiciary, fight corruption and torture, guarantee freedom of expression and religion, and protect minority rights.

Analysts say Turkey`s ruling AK Party has put the EU agenda on the backburner, due to political distractions at home and the lack of appetite for enlargement among EU member states after the bloc`s costly expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.

While all EU states favour eventual membership for Croatia, Turkey`s prospect of joining divides the EU.

Powerful states such as EU president France and Germany are not keen, questioning the European credentials of the poor and overwhelmingly Muslim country of 70 million people.

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