The European Commission underlined Saturday that progress in Turkey's just-started EU entry talks depends crucially on the speed of reforms by Ankara, warning it faces a "difficult journey."
There's still a long way to go before Turkey can possibly join the EU
Turkey, which has been knocking at the European club's door for four decades, finally started EU talks last Tuesday after marathon haggling overcame Austrian demands that Ankara be offered something less than full membership.
But the EU has stressed all along that there is no guarantee of eventual EU membership, and the talks are expected in any case to last for at least a decade.
"The pace of the negotiations will be ... determined by the pace of the reforms," said EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn after a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "It will be a difficult journey."
Overcomi n g prejudices
Rehn, who will lead the negotiations on behalf of the EU's executive arm, also called on Turkish leaders to help overcome prejudices among both ordinary Turks and Europeans.
"We need to work for better communication between Europe and Turkey and with our citizens so we can surmount unnecessary difficulties," he said. "We discussed how to combat prejudices in Turkey and EU."
Does Turkey have a bright future in the EU?
Critics in Europe argue that the vast mostly-Muslim country, which straddles the border Europe and Asia, is simply too economically and culturally different to join the rich European club, where Christianity remains the dominant faith.
Erdoga n : "Difficult process"
Erdogan echoed the EU's official's comments, warning of a "difficult process.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"Naturally we will face many difficulties along the road," he said, while insisting that Ankara will ultimately succeed in negotiating its EU entry.
Rehn had discussions with Turkish officials in the capital Ankara on Thursday, and on Friday travelled to Kayseri in central Anatolia, the hometown of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül.
The EU official was due to leave Istanbul later Saturday for Croatia, which finally started its talks at the same time as Turkey, after the UN's war crimes prosecutor said Zagreb was fully cooperating in the hunt for a key suspect.