Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan answers a question during a joint press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on May 16, 2013. UPI/Pat Benic | License Photo
STRASBOURG, France, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Having frank discussions about the Turkish justice system is vital in European accession talks, the EU enlargement chief said Wednesday in France.
Stefan Fule, enlargement commissioner for the European Union, met in Strasbourg, France, with Turkey's chief EU negotiator Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss eventual closer ties.
"Last year brought the momentum back to these negotiations" Fule said in a statement. "It is precisely because of the importance of our relations that we discussed openly our concerns as regards the independence and impartiality of the judiciary."
Fule said he was concerned by recent decisions made in Ankara that would give Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan tight control over the Justice Ministry.
Erdogan's administration is under scrutiny following a corruption scandal that extends to Cabinet ministers. The prime minister was quoted by Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman as saying the investigation was a "black stain" on Turkish democracy.
Elections in Turkey are scheduled for later this year.
The EU said Turkey is obliged to ensure corruption allegations are addressed transparently and without discrimination.
Turkey aspires to a closer relationship with the EU. The latest phase of accession talks -- Chapter 22, dealing with regional policy -- began Nov 5.