BRUSSELS, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Leaders from the European Union said Monday reforms made in Turkey "gave fresh momentum" to moving closer to a possible association agreement.
Turkey aspires to a closer relationship with the EU. The latest phase of accession talks -- Chapter 22, dealing with regional policy -- began Nov 5.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived Monday in Brussels with his top EU negotiator, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to discuss EU cooperation with Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule and Catherine Ashton, the top EU foreign policy official.
Fule and Ashton issued a joint statement Monday saying bilateral efforts last year were productive.
"All this gave fresh momentum to our cooperation and proved a strong desire of both sides to advance further," they said.
Last month, the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee endorsed an agreement whereby both sides would return so-called clandestine migrants living secretly in Turkey or in European Union member states.
Recently, however, members of the EU had expressed concerns over recent decisions made in Ankara that would give Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan tight control over the Justice Ministry
Ashton and Fule said they discussed "the importance of an independent judiciary" during their talks with Davutoglu and the EU negotiator.