Europe’s Greens meet to debate Turkey’s EU access

Agence France Presse
Oct 19 2004

Europe’s Greens meet to debate Turkey’s EU access
AFP: 10/19/2004
ISTANBUL, Oct 19 (AFP) – Europe’s Greens, once Turkey’s most vocal
critics and now the staunchest supporters of its EU membership, began
a three-day parliamentary group meeting here Tuesday with strong
criticism against any plans to hold national referendums on whether
Ankara should join the bloc.

“We are against holding referendums in one country about another
country,” Greens group president Daniel Cohn-Bendit said. “There are
seven million Turks living in Europe, so the real question in the
referendum will be, ‘Do you like Turks — do you like Muslims?'”

He singled out President Jacques Chirac, criticising his proposal to
amend the French constitution to allow referendums on future EU
members as “foolish” and “ridiculous.”

“How can a democratic president, even Chirac, say what will happen in
10 years’ time?” Cohn-Bendit asked at a press conference here opening
the meeting.

“Are they going to have referendums on the memberships of Romania,
Bulgaria, Bosnia? The French will go crazy!” he said. “This is
ridiculous. Don’t waste our time with what will happen in 10 years.”

Cohn-Bendit was flanked at the press conference by co-chair Monica
Frassoni of Italy, Dutchman Joost Logendijk and Germany’s Cem
Oezdemir, both of the EU-Turkey joint parliamentary committee.

Cohn-Bendit urged Turkey to accept the fact that it is different from
other candidate countries and that a special negotiating process is
needed to allow it into the EU.

A generally favorable European Commission report on October 6 advises
EU leaders to agree at a December 17 summit in Brussels to launch
membership talks with Turkey.

“When you say, ‘We want equal treatment,’ you do not mean it,”
Cohn-Bendit said. “Turkey is not Malta, it is not Romania, it is not
Bulgaria. It is a big country, it is a proud country, and its entry
into the EU will be an important event.”

He said the Greens had arrived in Turkey as “critical friends” in
hopes that many issues that remain to be ironed out — the situation
of the Kurds and other minorities, women’s rights, the Armenian
massacres — could be “openly discussed among friends.”

“We must have uncomfortable discussions on, for example, Cyprus and
the role of the army,” Frassoni said, adding: “The process of
building a European democracy is not finished.”

The Greens support Turkey’s EU membership, the Italian MEP said, but
so does Italy’s conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — “his
reasons are not the same as ours,” she added.

“What is the Greens’ message to Turkey?” asked Oezdemir, who is of
Turkish origin. “The message is that we are here and not somewhere

“If Turkey is today at another point than where it was several yuears
ago, it is also because of civil society, not only because of
politicians,” he said.

Another message from the Greens to Turkey’s politicians, Logendijk
said, is: “Don’t panic.”

He said the Commission report contained elements Turkey and the
Greens both disagree with, such as the open-ended nature of the talks
and mention of permanent derogations concerning this country, such as
barring its citizens from free circulation in Europe.

“But,” he said, “don’t lose your focus, don’t lose sight of the main
point: (membership) negotiations should begin next year.”

The meeting of the joint Greens/European Free Alliance group next
goes into a series of panel conferences covering aspects of Turkey-EU

Panelists include foreign ministers Joschka Fischer of Germany and
Abdullah Gul of Turkey, Kurdish activist Leyla Zana and Turkish
novelist Orhan Pamuk.