Sweden wants to resume EU talks with Turkey
Associated Press
2009-06-26 12:38 AM
Sweden's prime minister said Thursday he will try to open a new chapter in Turkey's bid to join the European Union when his country assumes the EU presidency.

Fredrik Reinfeldt told The Associated Press that membership negotiations with Turkey are of "utmost strategic importance for Europe" but added it was one of the most divisive issues in the 27-member bloc.

"I would like to see opening of a chapter if possible, but as a president you need to be an honest broker, you need to find a solution that can be accepted by everyone," Reinfeldt said in an interview in Stockholm.

"If I'm able to succeed in this is too early to say but we will try our best," he said.

Sweden takes over the six-month EU presidency from the Czech Republic next week.

Turkey's EU membership talks have stalled over human rights problems and Turkey's refusal to recognize EU member Cyprus and open its ports to Cypriot ships and planes.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes Turkish membership, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated a vaguely defined partnership with the largely Muslim country.

Reinfeldt said he believes the conditions attached to membership negotiations will result in reforms that will improve the human rights situation and turn Turkey into a "rule-of-law democracy" that Europe wants to see.

He also echoed the views expressed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in January, that Turkey would be an important energy partner for Europe, which needs alternative energy routes to avoid getting entangled in gas disputes between Ukraine and Russia.

"Look at a map it is very clear that Turkish influence on transports of fossil fuel into Europe is very important," the Swedish center-right leader said.

EU enlargement is one of several priorities for Sweden when it takes over the bloc's rotating presidency. Other issues on the agenda include helping to negotiate a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December and combatting European job losses amid the economic crisis.

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