, Belgium
May 31 2005

Turkey under pressure

Written by David Ferguson in Brussels

Tuesday, 31 May 2005

"Turkey's will to reform is the deciding factor. If Turkey wants
to make sure that accession negotiations start on 3 October 2005,
it must not deter from its current course of reforms," said German
Green MEP Cem Ozdemir, himself of Turkish origin. "The image that
Turkey is currently projecting must be changed immediately," continued
Ozdemir, also a member of the European Parliament's Turkey delegation.
"Violent police action on International Women's Day, the recently
cancelled Armenia conference in Istanbul and recent calls to burn
the books of authors like Orhan Pamuk are intolerable relapses into
a bygone era."

Ozdemir does not expect the French rejection of European Constitution
to hold up further enlargement: "Ten member states have already
approved the constitution. The 'no' in France is a large burden for the
European Union to bear, but the ratification process will continue,
as planned, until October 2006." Turkey's latest application to join
dates back to 1987 and, if all conditions are met, the country should
begin accession negotiations in October 2005.

"The outcome of the French referendum does not stand in the way of
accession negotiations with Turkey. The EU must also be ready to take
on new members. It is in Europe's own interest to reform itself as
quickly as possible, in order to remain functional with 25 members
and soon 27 members. If Turkey joins the EU within the target time
period of ten to 15 years, it will become part of a stronger union."

Turkey is under great pressure to maintain and extend press freedoms
and human rights. But doubts have been increasingly raised over the
pace of change in Turkey. In April, Ankara announced a two or three
month delay for reform of the country's 79-year-old penal code to
meet the EU's political standards. One of the draft articles of the
revised code still deemed it an offense calling for Turkish withdrawal
from Cyprus or talk of an Armenian genocide.