Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweden shows support for Turkey's EU bid as it takes over bloc's helm

Hurriyet Daily News
July 1, 2009

ISTANBUL - Sweden took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on Wednesday, as its ambassador to Turkey reiterated his country's support for Ankara in its membership bid to the 27-nation bloc.

Sweden, who took over the rotating EU presidency from the Czech Republic, will continue to support Turkey until the day it becomes a full member of the European Union, the country's ambassador in Ankara Christer Asp told the state-run Anatolian Agency.

"I think that it is wrong to only look at how many chapters have been opened for negotiations," Asp said. "What is crucial is the continuation of negotiations. It is important to meet the conditions and criteria in order to open new chapters of negotiations."

Turkey, which began accession talks in 2005, on Tuesday opened talks on taxation, one of the 35 policy negotiating areas – or chapters – all would-be members have to complete before joining.

Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. Eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Greek Cypriots. France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.

Asp said Sweden is ready to open all negotiating areas with Turkey, but added the chapters remaining to be opened are the most difficult ones.

He also said he has no doubt that Turkey will become a full member of the EU, adding it would be a strategic error not to let Turkey into the bloc.

Swedish officials recently expressed support for Turkey's long-running membership bid, as the Nordic country has said it is determined to continue progress in Turkey’s accession negotiations.

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