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EU's Barroso gloomy on Turkey reforms

Written by: Staff
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MILAN, Oct 26 (Reuters) European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso sounded a gloomy note on Turkey's progress towards European Union membership in an interview published today, warning of the risk of a ''traumatic stop'' to talks.

''I'm sorry to say it, but things are going badly,'' Barroso told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

''We're at a critical moment. The reforms in Turkey are proceeding very slowly and today, I don't see the progress I would have hoped for.'' The Turkish parliament is completing a reform package due to be adopted before Brussels issues its next progress report on candidates on November 8, but a law on religious foundations has been watered down and there is no sign of an EU demand to change rules allowing prosecutions for ''insulting Turkishness''.

''Let's hope that the Finnish presidency will manage to avoid a traumatic stop to negotiations. But, honestly, I am worried,'' Barroso said.

Finland is trying to broker an agreement on trade with Cyprus to avert a looming crisis between Ankara and the EU over Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from the Greek Cypriot part of the divided island.

If there is no deal, EU countries are likely to suspend at least part of Turkey's accession negotiations in mid-December, and Cyprus is likely to use its veto power to prevent any other part of the talks going ahead, diplomats say.

Ankara says it is only prepared to open its ports to shipping from Cyprus if the EU makes good on a pledge to end the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

Turkey does not recognise the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia, which has represented the entire island in the EU since Cyprus joined the bloc in 2004 despite rejection by Greek Cypriots of a UN reunification plan accepted by Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots.

REUTERS DKB HS1440

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