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Turkey OKs Reforms Aimed at Entry to EU

September 27, 2004|From Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — A special session of parliament approved legal reforms Sunday aimed at opening the way for Turkey to begin membership talks with the European Union after the governing party dropped a proposal to criminalize adultery, a plan that had upset EU leaders.

The vote came before an Oct. 6 report by the EU that is expected to recommend the bloc start negotiations with Turkey.

But the dispute over criminalizing adultery, a measure that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported, left concerns about his party's Islamic roots and overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey's commitment to European values.

"Unfortunately, the debate over adultery has created serious doubts in Europe about Turkey's determination to preserve its secularity," Onur Oymen, a lawmaker from the main opposition party, told parliament before the vote.

The reform package, the first overhaul of the penal code in 78 years, revamps Turkey's criminal laws, including tougher measures against rape, pedophilia and torture, and improves human rights standards.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer must approve the changes before they take effect.

Erdogan has made Turkey's entry into the European Union his top priority, and the criminal code reforms follow earlier changes that broadened freedom of expression, granted greater rights to minority Kurds and trimmed the role of the military in politics.

Conservative legislators and many grass-roots supporters of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party had demanded that the penal code package include the anti-adultery provision, which led to tensions with the European Union.

Erdogan apparently agreed to drop the adultery provision after meeting Thursday in Brussels with EU leaders.

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