EU sees Croatia advance in EU talks, chides Turkey

Tue Nov 9, 2010 12:10pm EST
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By Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union told Croatia Tuesday that its negotiations to join the bloc had entered their "final" stage," while chiding Turkey for its failure to improve relations with Cyprus.

In its annual report on countries lining up to join the EU, the executive European Commission also recommended Montenegro be granted EU candidate status, but deferred opening talks with that country because of concerns over rule of law there.

The report made clear the commission's concern over corruption and crime in candidate countries and widespread problems with upholding media freedom.

The report said Albania should also wait before making progress toward EU integration.

Regarding Turkey, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said Ankara should urgently meet its obligations toward Cyprus.

The EU did not give Croatia a date for completing talks or joining the 27-member bloc because it wants the former Yugoslav state to provide more evidence that it is serious about fighting corruption and coming to terms with the legacy of war. But it still offered encouragement over its bid to join.

"Negotiations with Croatia have entered their final stage," the report said. However, it said, talks will concluded only "once Croatia has met outstanding closing benchmarks."

Turkey's bid has met resistance from powerful member states such as France and Germany. The Commission repeated criticism of Turkey's failure to comply with a 2005 deal, known as the Ankara Protocol, under which it committed to open its ports to Cyprus.   Continued...

<p>Children play near a public fountain in Rijeka on the northern Adriatic island of Cres March 19, 2010. REUTERS/Nikola Solic</p>