EURO MPS SLAM TURKEY ON HUMAN RIGHTS, DROP GENOCIDE CLAUSE
September 27, 2006 Wednesday 1:45 PM EST
DPA POLITICS EU Diplomacy Turkey ROUNDUP: Euro MPs slam Turkey on
human rights, drop genocide clause Adds quotes, details on Cyprus
European lawmakers on Wednesday approved a critical report on
Turkey’s progress towards European Union membership but dropped a
clause calling for Ankara to
recognize the Armenian genocide before Turkey can join the bloc.
However, Euro MPs said that although recognition of the genocide
was not a precondition for EU accession, "it is indispensable for a
country on the road to membership to come to terms with and recognize
Freedom of expression, minority religion rights and the Cyprus issue
are the key areas where improvement is necessary, Euro lawmakers said
in the report. It was adopted by 429 votes in favour to 71 against
with 125 abstentions.
Leading EU lawmakers said that the Parliament missed its chance to
press Ankara for a solution to the thorny Cyprus issue.
The EU has often warned of a "train crash" in Turkey’s EU negotiations
if it continued to fully implement the Ankara Protocol under which
Turkey agreed to extend its customs union with the EU to Cyprus and
to open its ports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes.
"The European Parliament has taken two steps forward and one step
back in its approach towards the controversial issue of Turkish EU
membership," British Liberal Euro MP Andrew Duff, vice president of
the EP delegation for relations with Turkey, said after the vote.
"The EU still needs to fulfil its commitment to ending the isolation
of the Turkish Cypriot community," he added.
Euro MPs warned Turkey once again that current membership talks with
the bloc are "open-ended" and that Ankara’s entry into the 25-nation
club is by no means guaranteed.
The report, drawn up by Dutch conservative MEP Camiel Eurlings,
also slams Ankara on a deteriorating human rights record and a slow-
down in reforms.
"It is important that the reforms be given impetus from within the
country by the authorities themselves and are not merely the result
of pressure from outside Turkey," EU lawmakers stressed.
Referring to growing public unease at the EU’s eastward expansion,
the report highlights that the bloc’s "capacity to absorb Turkey while
maintaining the momentum of integration is an important consideration."
Euro MPs also urged Turkey to bring its penal code in line with
European standards for freedom of expression.
They said that Ankara must abolish clauses such as article 301 under
which insulting the state and its institutions is considered an
offence which could lead to a sentence of three years in prison.
In addition, Euro MPs criticised Turkey for not respecting women’s
rights and for the strong influence of the military in public life.
EU lawmakers in the past have never vetoed any accession bid.
However, the parliament’s biggest and most influential conservative
group favours a so-called "privileged partnership" with Turkey.
The bloc’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on Tuesday pressed
Ankara for "a more resolute reform process", adding that he was
getting tired of having to repeat himself on human rights issues.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso earlier this week
put a damper on the hopes of Croatia, Turkey and others of joining the
bloc, saying that the EU had to resolve the status of its embattled
constitution before it could accept any more new members.
The commission last week said it would release on November 8 a regular
assessment on whether Turkey had made progress in reforms to qualify
for EU membership.
The EU’s executive is also expected to suggest in its report what
the bloc should do if Ankara misses the EU’s December 2006 deadline
Turkey began negotiations aimed at EU membership last year. Talks
are expected to take up to 15 years.