Turkish premier hopes for a 'leap' toward joining EU

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Brussels Monday to meet European Union officials to discuss Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Accession to the EU is a top priority for Turkey," he said. "I hope there will be a leap in 2009."


REUTERS - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday accession to the European Union was a top priority and that he hoped his country would move closer to that goal in 2009.

"Accession to the EU is a top priority for Turkey," said Erdogan at a news briefing.  "I hope there will be a leap in 2009."     

Erdogan's trip, his first to Brussels in four years, comes as Ankara faces EU pressure to speed up reforms in a decisive year for its slow-moving accession process.

Some existing EU members have questioned Turkey's commitment to join the 27-nation bloc.

The EU wants Ankara to reform its constitution, improve free speech, grant more rights to minorities and curb the power of the army. Turkey has pledged many times that it is determined to complete talks, but Brussels wants deeds, not words.

Erdogan said Turkey was working on many of the reforms asked for by the EU, including laws governing trade union.

"We don't ask for privileges, what we ask for is equal and fair treatment," he said, complaining that areas of talks (chapters) had been blocked for political reasons.

Referring to scepticism among many Turks regarding EU accesion, he said the government were working on convincing them: "As the results of our efforts our people are going to come to believe that this is important and they are going to give our support to us," he said.


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