December 14, 2004, Tuesday
15:06:27 Central European Time
E.U. Parliament to vote on Turkish entry ahead of summit decision
The European Parliament will vote Wednesday on Turkey’s bid to join
the European Union, setting the scene for the bloc’s expected
decision December 16-17 to fix a date for opening entry talks with
Parliamentary sources said a majority of the assembly’s 732 lawmakers
were likely to vote for an early opening of membership negotiations
Members of the parliament’s conservative European People’s Party are
split on the issue, with group leader Hans-Gert Poettering urging
E.U. leaders to offer Ankara a privileged partnership rather than
full membership but other group members favouring the launch of
Poettering’s stance reflects the tough position of the conservative
opposition in Germany.
However, socialist deputies, representing the second largest group in
the assembly, want to open talks with Turkey, a line also espoused by
most members of the Liberal Democrat and green groups.
The parliament’s vote is not binding on E.U. governments. But “it is
clearly a signal to the E.U. summit,” said a parliamentary official.
Euro deputies will be voting on a report on Turkey drawn up by Camiel
Eurlings, a conservative Dutch member of the Parliament who has
lauded Ankara’s efforts at reform.
In discussions on Turkey, pro-membership lawmakers have underlined
that Islam must not be an issue. Ankara’s espousal of European values
as part of its drive to join the Union would prove that “Islam and
democracy are not incompatible,” said socialist group leader Martin
Banging the door in Ankara’s face may stall the country’s impressive
reform effort, Shulz warned.
With only two days to go before their summit talks, E.U. governments
are still split on how best to deal with Turkey.
Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy are striving to ensure the final
summit statement does not mention French, Danish and Austrian demands
that Ankara should be offered the fallback option of a “special
relationship” if membership talks fail.
Pro-Turkey leaders are also expected to resist any reference in the
final text suggesting that “long transition periods, derogations,
specific arrangements or permanent safeguard clauses” may be
Diplomats said Turkey would also be asked to recognise (Greek) Cyprus
but said this could be done through Ankara’s extension of its current
customs union arrangement with the E.U. to all ten new members which
joined the bloc in May this year.
France has said it wants Turkey to recognise the killing of Armenians
between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. But Paris has said this is not a
precondition for opening talks and could be done after negotiations
begin. dpa si sc