BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union opened negotiations with Turkey on two more reform areas on Wednesday as part of Ankara’s bid to join the bloc.
This brings to five the number of so-called “chapters” Turkey has opened of the 35 that must be completed to conclude the accession process. The EU said it hoped to open talks on two or three others in the first half of 2008.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the opening of the chapters on health and consumer protection, and trans-European transport networks, showed accession talks were on track despite difficulties.
Rehn, who said he was concerned by the “political atmospherics” in EU-Turkey relations, said “the opening of these two chapters indicates the EU accession process of Turkey continues and it delivers results”.
Asked what progress could be expected in the first half of next year, Rehn told a news conference it would be realistic to expect two to three areas to be opened, but declined to name which ones.
Ankara began EU entry talks in 2005 but they have moved very slowly because of rows over Cyprus and human rights.
Eight chapters have been blocked since the end of last year because of Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from EU member Cyprus.
Wednesday’s meeting with Turkish Foreign minister Ali Babacan follows a decision taken by an EU summit last week to create a reflection group on the future of Europe.
This was wanted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who opposes Turkey’s EU membership.
Babacan criticized on Wednesday countries who he said wanted to derail the accession process, but declined to say which countries he was referring to.
“Some member states are in the effort of eroding our political and judicial position with regard to the accession process,” Babacan told a news conference.
“We believe that such attitude is not proper and does not display a responsible approach,” he said.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark John and Robert Woodward