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Hürriyet - July 27, 2010

Although Turkey is facing intense campaigns ahead of the constitutional referendum, officials expect the government will renew its focus on the country's EU accession negotiations after the voting period. ‘We will try to pass some pending laws relevant to our EU negotiations in October and November,’ a government official tells Daily News.

by Goksel Bozkurt

As the government prepares for the constitutional referendum Sept. 12, it is also looking forward to the post-vote period, during which officials are expected to renew their focus on Turkey’s European Union accession negotiations.

“We will try to pass some pending laws relevant to our EU negotiations in October and November,” a government official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently.

Turkey’s negotiation process is set for review at the EU’s December summit in light of the country’s continued resistance to opening its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft. Concerns have been raised that the EU could completely suspend the entire negotiation process if Turkey insists on its current Cyprus line.

The bloc has already postponed the opening of eight accession chapters, and provisionally suspended opening the remaining chapters in 2006, due to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to Greek Cyprus.

“In this sense, the December summit will be an important one, but we must first see the progress report,” the ambassador of a European country told the Daily News last week. “It’s still too early to talk about scenarios, because we believe there are still things that can be done between now and December.”

In a move to strengthen the hand of Turkey and its friends in the EU ahead of the December summit, the government in Ankara is planning to speed up the adoption of some legislation when it returns from summer recess Oct. 1.

Marc Pierini, the head of the European Commission delegation in Turkey, had recently lamented the slow pace of Turkey’s efforts to harmonize its standards with those of the European Union.

In the wake of these comments, the government plans to pass motions on a competition board, public procurement, social policies and employment. Additional laws on judicial reform, a trade code and special regulations for broadcasting are also on the agenda.

Many of these bills were not passed during the government’s spring session because of Parliament’s intense focus on the constitutional amendments.

The government is also reportedly planning to amend the law on political parties to make the bill more democratic, though there are no stated plans to introduce such legislation in the immediate future. Changing Parliament’s internal regulations will also draw government attention.

Visa facilitation a priority

While Turkey focuses on EU harmonization, the government also expects the European Union to work harder to facilitate a visa deal this October.

“This is something we deserve,” the Turkish government official said. “It would also stand as an important factor in upgrading Turkish people’s feelings for the EU.”

The deal would ease the procedures required for Turkish citizens to obtain a Schengen visa for EU countries, which allows travelers to enter multiple member states using a single visa. Facilitated entry is being sought for Turks who travel for business, cultural, educational or scientific purposes.

The government has already introduced long-expected biometric passports and joint border management regulations to remove some of the pre-conditions expected to be met before visa facilitation is implemented.

The European Council is expected to discuss the visa issue in October.


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