Turkey EU Entry Talks Face Doubts Amid Istanbul Protests

European Union governments were divided on restarting Turkey’s EU membership talks as criticism mounted of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s handling of the biggest protests against his rule.

“Discussion among the member states is ongoing” over resuming the entry bid, a step that had been planned before the anti-Erdogan demonstrations erupted two weeks ago in central Istanbul, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule told the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, France.

Representatives of the EU’s 27 governments will decide June 19 whether to press on with the membership negotiations, which have gone nowhere since mid-2010. Any one of the bloc’s 27 countries could veto the step.

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino called the protests “the first serious test” of Turkey’s entitlement to join the EU, Agence France-Presse reported from Rome. The German government has growing doubts about the wisdom of reopening the talks, Spiegel reported, citing unidentified officials.

A resumption of the entry process would still leave Turkey far from getting in. Since beginning the path toward the EU in October 2005, Turkey has held talks in 13 policy areas and completed one. Croatia, which began its bid on the same day as Turkey, will join the EU next month.

Fule said the entry negotiations, which require Turkey to adopt EU regulations and embrace its political culture, would be a “benchmark for Turkish reforms” and the best tool for nurturing democratic habits and media freedoms there.

While some members of the EU parliament also appealed for an acceleration of the entry talks as a way of influencing the Erdogan government’s behavior, that call didn’t find its way into a draft resolution put together by the parliament’s five main parties.

The non-binding resolution, to be voted on tomorrow, voiced “deep concern” at the use of force by Turkish police, saying the country needs to build a “truly democratic, free and pluralist society.”

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