EU agrees to restart Turkey membership talks next month

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan Image copyright AP
Image caption The European Commission gave a mixed assessment of progress made by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The European Union says it has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey.

The EU's European affairs ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, said the talks would restart on 5 November, after being stalled for three years.

The EU had first agreed to relaunch negotiations in June, but postponed the talks after members criticised Turkey's crackdown on anti-government protests.

Turkey first applied for full membership of what was then the European Economic Community in 1987.

The ministers of the 28 EU members based their latest decision on a recommendation by the European Commission.

In its 2013 progress report on Turkey published last week, the Commission had criticised as excessive the use of force by Turkish police in dealing with widespread demonstrations.

But it recognised that Turkey had introduced judicial reforms. It also praised the announcement last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a series of political reforms, including increased rights for Kurds.

'Catch up time'

Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister of Lithuania, which currently holds the EU presidency, congratulated Turkey on the resumption of the negotiating process, which he said was overdue.

"Time to catch up!" he tweeted on Lithuania's official EU presidency site.

Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (then the European Economic Community) since 1963.

Turkey met the last condition for accession talks in 2005, but negotiations have stalled over a range of issues, including concern over freedom of speech and democracy, treatment of religious minorities, judicial reform, and ongoing tensions with Cyprus, an EU member.

During that time Ankara has watched other countries overtake Turkey in the queue for membership.

Croatia became a full member of the EU in July, while Serbia achieved official candidate status earlier this year.

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