ANKARA: MEPs call for more reforms for progress in EU talks

Turkish Daily News
September 28, 2006 Thursday


The European Parliament warned Turkey in a non-binding report
yesterday that it must speed up far-reaching reforms if it wanted to
become a member of the European Union.

European parliamentarians adopted the highly critical, nonbinding
report by 429 votes in favor to 71 against with 125 abstentions,
accusing Ankara of failing to live up to commitments it made to win
the green light from EU leaders to start talks on joining the bloc,
which began last October.

"The European Parliament … regrets the slowing down of the reform
process," the report said, adding that 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
of accession talks 11 months ago.

In a move likely to please Ankara, the European Parliament deleted a
controversial clause that would have sought to make recognition by
Turkey of an alleged genocide of Armenians at the hands of the late
Ottoman Empire a pre-condition for full membership.

But the report still called on Turkey to "acknowledge the Armenian
genocide" before it can join the EU, with European parliamentarians
saying it was "indispensable" for Turkey to come to terms with and
recognize its past. They also urged Turkey to establish diplomatic
relations with Armenia and open the land border with its eastern

Another clause in the critical report referring to alleged genocides
of other communities in Anatolia, namely the Pontus Greeks and the
Assyrians, was added to the one on the alleged Armenian genocide.

On Cyprus, the report demanded that Turkey fulfill its obligation to
open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Greek 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 North Cyprus. Brussels rejects this approach.

The report’s author, Dutch parliamentarian Camiel Eurlings, told the
European Parliament that it was "fair but tough" and urged Ankara to
see it as a "motivation to speed up reforms."

"I’m sorrowed that I had to draft such a damning report but the ball
is now firmly in Turkey’s court," Eurlings was quoted as saying at a
news conference.

In earlier reactions, Economy Minister Ali Babacan, who is also
Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, played down the report’s significance.

"We assess this report as a foreign assessment, an alternative view
which must be taken into account but it shouldn’t have too much
importance attached to it," he was quoted as saying.

Ankara is also awaiting a progress report from the EU’s executive
arm, the European Commission. The report on Turkey will be released
on Nov. 8.

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