By Vincent Boland in Ankara

Financial Times, UK
Oct 6 2005

Turkey must improve its human rights record and make the rule of law
"an everyday reality" if it is to meet the criteria that will let it
join the European Union, a senior European Commission official said
on Thursday.

Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, said Turkey's continuing
political and social reforms would be under "ever closer scrutiny"
now it had begun the accession process, after he met Abdullah Gul,
Turkey's foreign minister.

"This means rigorously implementing political reforms in the areas of
the rule of law, human rights, women's rights, the rights of religious
communities and trade unions," Mr Rehn said. The aim should be "to
make the rule of law an everyday reality in all walks of life".

Amid Turkish euphoria over the start of its EU accession process this
week, the warning appeared to be a reminder of what human rights
campaigners claim are recent examples of the abuse of the law by
prosecutors and judges, who operate independently of government.

Turkey's stance on freedom of expression is already under the spotlight
because of an attempt last month to ban a conference on the fate of
Armenians during the break-up of the Ottoman empire. It faces even
greater scrutiny in the next few weeks ahead of the trial of Orhan
Pamuk, the country's most celebrated writer.

Mr Pamuk is facing up to three years in jail if he is convicted of
"public denigration of Turkish identity" for comments he made about
Turkey's attitude to the Armenian issue. Mr Gul acknowledged that
Turkey had a lot of work ahead in the accession process.

Turkey's negative image may be due as much to its human rights
record as to cultural or religious differences with other European
countries. During a civil war between the state and Kurdish separatists
in the 1980s and 1990s, there were abuses on both sides that still
shape European attitudes, despite recent improvements.