TURKEY

Turkey to maintain transport cooperation with EU

TURKEY TO MAINTAIN TRANSPORT COOPERATION WITH EU

Turkey will continue working with the EU on transport policy, despite EU lawmakers' call to halt talks on the country joining the bloc, the Turkish transport minister said Thursday.

Ahmet Arslan's comments came as he met European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc in Ankara.

"Although some important chapters including transport policy have been suspended for political reasons, we continue our technical work in transport," he told Bulc.

Earlier, the European Parliament backed a report calling on EU member states to suspend accession talks if Turkey's constitutional changes endorsed in April's referendum go ahead.

The vote is non-binding on EU countries and does not have any immediate real impact.

EU accession talks began in 2005. To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

The negotiations faltered in 2007 over the Cyprus issue and German and French opposition.

"In 2011, we successfully concluded technical discussions regarding Turkey-Europe networks, which are the negotiating chapter 21," Arslan said.

"The chapter under the responsibility of our ministry is technically ready to be closed down."

Bulc, the former deputy prime minister of Slovenia, said the visit was important for future transport ties between the EU and Turkey.

"We are able to set a very strong political framework within which transport can develop in the future," she said.

She highlighted the Halkali-Kapikule Railway Line Project, which links Istanbul to the border crossing with Bulgaria, as a core part of the EU's freight transport strategy.

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