[JURIST] Turkey's bid for EU membership [EC materials] still faces significant obstacles, including the slowing of reforms and laws inhibiting freedom of speech, according to report [PDF text] released by the European Commission Wednesday. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official profile] highlighted Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder] of Turkey's Penal Code, which makes insulting "Turkishness" a crime, and hostile trade relations between Turkey and Cyprus as key concerns. Article 301 has been used to prosecute Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk [JURIST report], among other Turkish journalists and writers, for writing about the World War I-era alleged Armenian genocide [ANI backgrounder, Turkish DC Embassy backgrounder]. Although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, BBC profile] said last week that his government has no plans to change the provision, he later appeared to change his position, inviting civil society organizations to propose reforms [JURIST reports] to the article. In addition, Finland is currently mediating the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus, which became an EU member state in 2004.
Rehn told reporters that the EU should be "both fair and firm" with Turkey, stating, "Turkey has continued political reforms, even though their pace has slowed down during the past year." At the same time, he announced that no new members would be accepted any time soon, as institutional reforms are needed to accommodate the upcoming expansion. Romania and Bulgaria [EC materials] will be admitted as members in 2007. Several EU member states, including France and Germany, have expressed opposition to Turkey's membership. RFE/RL has more.