EU/Turkey: MEPs want Commission Report on Turkey to seek "solutions"

European Report
October 5, 2007

EU/TURKEY : MEPS WANT COMMISSION’S REPORT ON TURKEY TO SEEK
"SOLUTIONS"

Following two years of often turbulent though generally rather
sluggish accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey, the
European Parliament has proposed a new method for assessing the
progress Ankara makes in its EU membership bid. The Parliament’s
Foreign Affairs Committee approved on 3 October without opposition a
draft resolution on EU-Turkey relations (48 votes in favour, none
against and four abstentions) addressed to the European Commission
which, instead of focusing on problems, tries to encourage the new
government in Ankara to accelerate the implementation of EU-oriented
reforms.
"This report launches a new phase in EU-Turkey relations," rapporteur
Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP-ED, the Netherlands) told a press conference
following the vote. Our aim was to "reinforce the relations between
the EU and the new government in Turkey," she added. The emphasis has
been put on seeking "solutions" rather than on "making judgements" in
order to "keep the dialogue open," she explained. However, "nothing
in this resolution has been forgotten," said Oomen-Ruijten. "Only the
language is different," she added.

"It is a good beginning" before the next stages, the Commission’s
progress report in particular, Turkey’s Permanent Representative to
the EU, Volkan Bozkir, told Europolitics following the adoption of
the draft resolution. He called it "balanced and friendly". Referring
to the over 230 amendments submitted to the draft and rejected during
the vote, Bozkir expressed his satisfaction that all the "unnecessary
elements" were not included in the final text of the draft.
The resolution’s aim is to identify the most important issues on
which the Commission should focus while drafting its annual report on
Turkey’s progress towards EU membership, due to be released on 7
November. It is for the first time that the Parliament attempts in
such a formal way to influence the content of a Commission report.

BEYOND HUMAN RIGHTS

Commenting on the contents of the resolution, Oomen-Ruijten stressed
that while drafting the progress report on Turkey, the Commission
should not focus only on human rights, but also on such areas as
social cohesion and energy cooperation. "We want to widen the scope
of the Commission’s report. We want, for example, to strengthen
social cohesion, the energy cooperation between the EU and Turkey, or
more information on the EU-Turkey civil society dialogue," said
Oomen-Ruijten.

"NOTHING HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN"

The resolution touches upon all the problematic issues in EU-Turkey
relations. It urges Ankara to "remove" all provisions of its penal
code allowing for arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of expression
and calls on the new government to bring its approach towards
religious minorities "in line with the principles of freedom of
religion". It encourages the Turkish government to "strengthen" its
efforts to eradicate violence and discriminatory practices against
women. The resolution also welcomes the intention of the government
to adopt a new constitution. It underlines, however, that the
predictably lengthy work on a new constitution "should not postpone
urgently needed reforms, especially on Article 301 of the Penal
Code," which is being used on many occasions to restrict freedom of
expression in Turkey.

The resolution also tackles Turkey’s relations with its neighbours.
It urges the new government to terminate its economic blockade
(Turkey does not allow Cypriot vessels and airplanes to access its
ports and airports) and border closure (the country’s border with
Armenia is closed). However, it calls on all parties to these
conflicts, not only on Turkey, to adopt a constructive attitude for a
comprehensive settlement within the UN framework.

FOLLOW-UP

The draft resolution will be voted on during the 24 October plenary
session, following statements by the Council and the Commission. The
EU executive’s progress report on Turkey will be then followed by the
EP report to be drafted also by Ria Oomen-Ruijten. It will be adopted
by the EP’s plenary, most probably at the beginning of next year.

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