EU parliament presses Turkey on human rights

EU parliament presses Turkey on human rights

BRUSSELS, March 17 (Reuters) – Turkey must improve its record on human
rights and the rule of law before European Union member states start
talks with Ankara on adopting EU laws, the European Parliament said on

Turkey has been trying to join the EU for decades, and has faced
consistent calls to remedy human rights abuses. The bloc is due to
decide by the end of this year whether to set a date when accession
negotiations may begin.

The entry of any new member state requires the approval of the
parliament, but the assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee made clear
Ankara had a long way to go — even though the Union is committed to
its eventual membership.

Deputies “criticised the continuing influence of the army in politics,
business, culture and education, continuing torture practices and
mistreatment, the intimidation and harassment of human rights
defenders, the discrimination of religious minorities and the fact
that trade union freedom is not fully secured,” they said in a

Deputies noted Turkey had made many important reforms since last year
to meet the membership criteria, and praised the government’s
political will to improve conditions, while saying reforms could only
be judged by how they were implemented.

Members of the parliament called on the EU’s executive Commission to
press Ankara on these issues.

“The Commission should, as part of the pre-accession strategy,
systematically address the shortcomings in the rule of law and the
democratic deficit,” the statement said.

The Foreign Affairs Committee insisted that settlement of the Cyprus
conflict was “an essential condition for progress” in Turkey’s
membership bid, and also urged Ankara to open its borders with

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when troops from Turkey occupied
the north of the island in response to a coup in Nicosia engineered by
the junta then ruling Greece.

The United Nations is brokering reunification talks bringing together
Greece, Turkey, and Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to try to unite the
island before it joins the EU on May 1.

Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, independent since the
break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Armenians say 1.5 million people were killed in a 1915-1918 campaign
to expel them from eastern Turkey, calling it genocide, a charge
Turkey denies.

03/17/04 11:46 ET