EU enlargement and integration with our European neighbours remains a strong and credible EU policy with the rule of law at its centre. Despite the financial crisis and negative populist campaigns, the S&Ds remain strongly in favour of the EU's enlargement to include the Western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland.
We believe the EU must maintain the political momentum behind enlargement in the Western Balkans. We support states getting candidate status and opening accession negotiations as soon as they meet the required criteria, and strict but fair conditionality should be applied. The S&Ds are particularly committed to ensuring social challenges are a priority, with the aim of strengthening social justice across Europe. In this spirit, we continue to strengthen our co-operation with social-democratic parties in the region, which are the most consistently pro-European forces.
At a time when we face economic challenges and continuing instability in the southern Mediterranean, our relationship with Turkey matters more than ever. We are very concerned about the deterioration of human rights and the lack of progress on democratic reforms. Nevertheless, we believe that the EU accession process can be a powerful stimulus for promoting democracy and reform in Turkey and we want to see a stronger commitment to co-operation and reinvigorating EU-Turkey relations. We are convinced that injecting new momentum into this process will benefit both the EU and Turkey.
We were strong supporters of the Commission's positive agenda on relations with Turkey, including enhanced co-operation on political reform, continuing work on aligning Turkish legislation more closely with the EU, maximising the benefits of our economic relations, closer dialogue on foreign policy in the light of the Arab Spring and efforts to facilitate visas. We also play a leading role in promoting a responsible, focused debate on the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.