- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004

BRUSSELS — The European Commission gave Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union a huge boost last week, saying it saw “no more obstacles” toward a “clear recommendation” on starting EU entry talks with Ankara.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who is to publish a report of Turkey’s progress on Oct. 6, said his concerns — notably, over a disputed penal-reform bill — had been allayed in talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan, meanwhile, pledged to push through the delayed legislation “as soon as possible,” with efforts focusing on an extraordinary session of the Turkish Parliament today to rush the reforms through.

“We have been able to find solutions for the remaining outstanding problems,” Mr. Verheugen told reporters at a joint press conference with the Turkish prime minister after talks at a Brussels hotel.

He recalled that during a visit to Turkey this month to assess its progress toward meeting EU membership criteria he had expressed concerns about two key issues — reform to the penal code and charges of systematic torture in Turkey.

“My conclusion is that there are no more obstacles on the table now,” he said, adding: “From my point of view, there are no further conditions which Turkey must fulfill in order to allow the commission to make a recommendation.”

Mr. Verheugen’s long-awaited Oct. 6 report will form the basis for EU leaders to decide at a mid-December summit whether to start EU membership negotiations with Ankara.

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