Turkey reforms penal code

The European Commission made clear the reforms were a condition for granting to start Turkey’s entry negotiations.

“The speed of our drive to full membership depends on our efforts. No article in this new code can be used to limit rights and freedoms,” said justice minister Cemil Cicek.

The vote, by a show of hands, came just days before the European Commission publishes a detailed report on Turkey which will include a recommendation on whether Ankara is ready to start the long-delayed talks.

EU leaders will decide in December, based on the report, whether to open the talks, which are expected to last up to a decade.

“The law complies with EU legislation. We have taken a big step towards the EU,” Koksal Toptan, head of parliament’s justice committee, told Reuters after the vote.

Parliament had already approved much of the new penal code earlier this month.

But the government then decided to shelve it due to a row over separate plans to outlaw adultery, triggering dismay in the EU and near-panic in Turkish financial markets.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a pious Muslim, abandoned the planned adultery ban only after crisis talks last Thursday in Brussels.

EU officials had said the ban would be “un-European” and very difficult to implement.

Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative grouping with Islamist roots, has a big majority in parliament.

Much of the main centre-left Republican People’s Party also voted for the new penal code today.

Mr Erdogan struck an upbeat note about Turkey’s EU prospects, saying: “A long and difficult road is opening up before Turkey but it is a road we will walk with enthusiasm.”

Many in the EU are nervous about granting full membership to Turkey, a relatively poor, Muslim country of 71 million people.

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