BRUSSELS - From the Middle East Times website.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held critical talks with European Union officials on Thursday, seeking to allay concerns about Ankara’s EU preparations two weeks ahead of a crucial report.

The European Commission, which is due to publish its assessment of Turkey’s EU bid on October 6, wants clarification on the mostly Muslim country’s reform plans, particularly reform of the penal code.

EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen is due to make recommendations next month about whether Turkey should start EU membership negotiations. The final word will then be taken by EU leaders at a summit in mid-December.

Turkey, an EU candidate since 1999, has been striving hard to win a positive appraisal from the commission by pushing through major reforms to its laws, judiciary, and systems of government.

But Brussels has warned that the hard work risks being undone at the final hurdle if promised reforms to Turkey’s penal code are not carried through.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government last week withdrew a penal code bill from parliament – apparently under pressure from hardline Muslim groups to restore a clause to criminalize adultery.

Officials delivered a blunt warning this week that Turkey would be snubbed by the EU unless it passes the penal code reforms.

EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler, a known opponent of Turkey’s accession, said on Tuesday that its entry into the bloc would create myriad problems for EU farm policies.

Earlier this month it emerged that the Austrian official had warned, in a letter to his fellow EU commissioners, that “there remain doubts as to Turkey’s long-term secular and democratic credentials.”

AFP