ANKARA CRITICISED ON PRESS FREEDOM
Fabrice Randoux

Europolitics information society
November 2, 2009

A "balanced report." That was the reaction of Egemen Bagis, the Turkish
minister for EU relations, to the European Commission's annual report
on Turkey, published on 14 October. The Commission denounced attacks
on the freedom for the press and unions, children's rights and sexual
equality.

It showed particular concern over the large fines (over a billion
euro) imposed on the private Dogan Yayin Holding (DYH) media group
for unpaid taxes. "If a tax fine is worth the annual turnover of a
company it's quite a strong sanction and it may not only be a tax
sanction but it seems like a political sanction," said Olli Rehn, the
commissioner for enlargement. "There are too many provisions in the
penal code that could be used to restrict free expression," he added.

The Commission also lamented "little progress" in terms of political
and constitutional reforms, the fights against corruption, free supply
of services and company law.

REPORT "SOFT" ON CYPRUS

On relations with Cyprus, the report notes the absence of progress
on the opening of Turkish ports and airports since 2006. The EU had
decided to freeze eight of the 33 chapters of negotiations (see box)
as a result of Ankara's refusal to do this. But the Commission did
not recommend new sanctions, limiting itself to declaring it "urgent
that Turkey fulfil its obligations".

The EU executive is clearly keen not to disrupt delicate talks,
initiated in September 2008 and overseen by the United Nations,
intended to result in a unified Cyprus. The division of the island
since 1974 is an "anachronism," in the eyes of Rehn, "20 years after
the end of the Berlin Wall".

ARMENIA AND KURDISH RIGHTS

The report, however, commends the normalisation of relations between
Armenia and Turkey, two rival countries with a shared bloody history,
which signed a historic accord in Switzerland, on 10 October, sealing
their reconciliation. It also applauds the Turkish government for
opening a "wide public debate" on the Kurdish question, adding that
it was "crucial" that it is "followed by concrete measures" to help
the minority in the South-West of the country. The Commission also
approved of the launch of a Kurdish television channel.

The Commission said it was also pleased with the signing of an
intergovernmental agreement for the Nabucco gas pipeline which,
from 2014, will link the gas fields of Central Asia to Europe,
bypassing Russia. It said this was a contribution to gas security,
which would benefit "Turkey as much as the EU".

The remaining negotiations with Ankara seem to be in firm stalemate
with a lack of motivation on both sides. Since the start of the year,
only one chapter has been opened, that on taxation.

Status of accession talks

Eleven chapters opened: Science and research, business and industrial
policy, statistics, financial monitoring, trans-European networks,
consumer protection and health, company law, intellectual property
rights, information society and media, free movement of capital
and taxation.

One chapter provisionally closed: Science and research

Eight chapters suspended: Free movement of goods, right to
establishment and supply of services, financial services, agriculture
and rural development, fisheries, transport, customs union, external
relations.

Chapters blocked by France: Economic and monetary policy, regional
policy and policy for the structural instruments of coordination,
agriculture and rural development, financial and budgetary provisions,
institutional questions.

Chapters blocked by Cyprus: Energy, education and culture