Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem will travel to Brussels this weekend to formally submit to the European Union Ankara's program of reforms to gain its long-sought EU membership, the foreign ministry said Friday, march 23.
Cem will arrive in Brussels Saturday and during a three-day stay meet with the EU enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, the ministry said.
The Turkish government adopted on Monday the reform program, in which it pledged several steps to haul itself up to European norms, such as improving freedom of thought and expression, eliminating torture and improving prison conditions.
But the program failed to address some key EU demands on granting cultural rights to Turkey's Kurdish minority, abolishing the death penalty and curbing the military's role in politics.
Turkey was declared a candidate for EU membership in December 1999 at the union's Helsinki summit after two years of frosty ties between Brussels and Ankara over a previous EU rejection of its membership bid.
Relations were soured again in November when Turkey reacted angrily to European Commission demands that Ankara saw as an attempt to tie its membership bid to the resolution of disputes with EU member state Greece over Cyprus and the Aegean.
Turkey threatened to "revise" relations with Brussels if the bloc insisted on tying its membership process to these issues. In early December, EU foreign ministers modified the wording of the original text to satisfy both Ankara and Athens. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)