ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Turkey is falling behind in terms of closing the gender gap for women in the political system, the European commissioner for neighborhood policy said.
European Union Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule said at an Istanbul women's rights conference that Turkey is behind its European counterparts when it comes to women's role in politics.
"Turkey needs to encourage the political representation of women, especially at the municipal level, where only 1 percent of Turkish municipalities have a female mayor," he said in a statement. "All parties need to place a sufficient number of female candidates in eligible positions."
Turkey aspires to a closer relationship with the EU. The latest phase of accession talks -- Chapter 22, dealing with regional policy -- began Tuesday.
The EU welcomed Turkish efforts to settle longstanding issues with the Kurdish minority but expressed concern over polarization in the political environment.
"We are all aware that progress on women's rights also depends on a change in mentality and perceptions on gender," Fule said. "Such change cannot take place overnight, neither in Turkey nor anywhere else."