EU Assembly Adopts Critical Report On Turkey

EU ASSEMBLY ADOPTS CRITICAL REPORT ON TURKEY
By Darren Ennis

REUTERS, UK
Sept 27 2006

STRASBOURG, France, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The European Parliament warned
Turkey on Wednesday that it must speed up far-reaching reforms if it
wants to join the European Union.

EU lawmakers adopted a highly critical, non-binding report which
accused Ankara of failing to live up to promises it made to start
talks last October on joining the bloc.

"The European Parliament … regrets the slowing down of the reform
process," the report said.

It noted Turkey had shown "insufficient progress" in the areas of
freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, women’s rights
and the rule of law since the start accession talks 11 months ago.

It demanded Turkey fulfil its obligation to open its ports and airports
to EU member Cyprus under an extended customs agreement.

Ankara has refused to do so unless the EU fulfils a pledge to end
the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriot northern Cyprus.

But parliament voted to delete a clause which would have sought
to make recognition by Ankara of the mass killing of Armenians in
Ottoman Turkey as "genocide" a precondition for EU membership. The
clause had particularly angered Turkey.

However, parliament said it "reiterates its call on Turkey to
acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as called for in previous European
parliament resolutions".

European Commissioner Louis Michel, speaking on behalf of the EU
executive, warned lawmakers on Tuesday that making this a precondition
for membership would be "moving the goalposts".

"FIRM BUT FAIR"

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an economic conference in
Istanbul that his government was "determined to work with the EU with
a constructive understanding" but would not accept any discrimination
or new criteria for membership.

"You cannot change the rules during the match. The rules of play are
clear. The game has begun," Erdogan said.

The report by Dutch lawmaker Camiel Eurlings did not call for a halt
or suspension of talks with Turkey. Eurlings told parliament it was
"fair but tough" and urged Turkey to see it as as "a motivation to
speed up reforms".

Any country wishing to become a member of the 25-member bloc, set to
become 27 when Romania and Bulgaria join on Jan. 1, must receive the
approval of the EU’s directly elected assembly.

Parliament has never sought to veto any past accession, but it has
played a role in pressuring EU hopefuls to speed up reforms in previous
enlargement rounds.

The 80 amendments put forward by different political groups highlighted
deep divisions within the assembly over Turkey’s possible membership.

Many members of the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest
group, are unconvinced about Turkey’s bid to join. The governing
parties of Germany and France, which dominate the group, favour
"privileged partnership" with Turkey rather than full membership.

Some experts fear a possible breakdown in accession talks with the
strategic, Muslim candidate country if it fails to solve the dispute
over Cyprus amid mutual public disenchantment.

The European Commission is due to deliver its next regular progress
report on Turkey on Nov. 8 and has promised to take parliament’s
views into account.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Ollie Rehn will visit Ankara next week
to meet Turkish leaders.

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