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EU welcomes approval of constitutional changes in Turkey

Photo: Reuters.

Controversial constitutional changes which got the "yes" vote in a Turkish referendum Sunday have been welcomed by the European Commission, which called them a step in the right direction.

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Almost 80 percent of voters turned out for the referendum in Turkey, which is negotiating its way into the EU, with some 58 percent backing controversial changes to reshape the judiciary and curb the military's powers.

"These reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey's efforts towards fully complying with EU accession criteria," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.

"However, their impact on the ground will depend on their actual implementation," he added.

Although the EU has welcomed the vote, it called for further reforms concerning fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion in the country.

Sunday’s outcome came as a huge boost for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of 2011 general elections in which the party, the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, will seek a third straight term in power.

Turkey’s secularist opposition had campaigned against the amendments, saying they masked an AKP crusade to tighten its authoritarian grip on power.

US President Barack Obama telephoned Erdoğan Sunday, hailing the "vibrancy of Turkish democracy".

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