Friday, 11 March 2011

EU Parliament Issues Critical Report on Turkey's Progress Towards Membership

The EU Parliament issued an extremely critical report on Turkey's progress towards becoming an EU member.

The Cyprus-Turkey deadlock, lack of dialogue among Turkish political parties and the undermining of press freedom and other basic rights in Turkey are the key factors slowing down the country's EU accession talks, said rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL) during the debate.

The resolution, adopted with the support of a large majority of MEPs, welcomes Turkey's adoption of constitutional amendments but stresses that "an overall constitutional reform" is still needed to transform Turkey into a real democracy. MEPs also applaud the recent finalisation of negotiations on a readmission agreement to handle migration. Once this enters into force, the Commission should initiate "a visa dialogue, with particular attention to the matter of entry conditions for business people and students".

Among the main remaining challenges, MEPs list the worrying deterioration of press freedom, including self-censorship of national media and internet sites; the situation of women and rising rates of honour killings and forced marriages; and the lack of protection of religious minorities. "Only limited progress" has been made to ensure their legal protection so that they can own properties, open houses of worship or train clergy, adds the resolution.

The EPP group of parliamentarians apparently pushed for an amendment calling for "study of the possibility" of a "privileged partnership" being offered to Turkey instead of full membership, but was persuaded to withdraw it. The Socialists pushed for a text stating that full membership was the goal. Eventually a compromise was agreed and the text declared that the process would be "long-lasting and open-ended".

The Turkish government has been squawking about the critical resolution:

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling it one-sided, out of line with reality, and unacceptable to Turkey.

"Turkey, as a negotiating EU candidate country, expects the EP, the voice of the European people and EU public, to take a fair and objective stand and display seriousness required by its function," the statement said.

"We observe that the report includes some views of a limited number of EP members, who represent certain countries, with concern over their domestic politics at the cost of risking the EU's interests," it said.

The full text of the resolution can be read here.

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