Hürriyet, Turkey
Nov 28 2008

Regional acts no mask for reforms

ANKARA - Turkey has been told by a European official the foreign
policy it has initiated in the region does not change the need for
reforms and repeated concern over the slow progress being made in
improving freedoms of expression and granting rights to the Alevis and

"The heart of EU accession is not strategy, but democracy," said
Joost Lagendijk, the head of the Turkish-European Union Joint
Parliamentary Committee.

The Turkish-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting began in the
capital and will continue today. European parliamentarians visiting
Turkey on a fact-finding mission said there was a visible stagnation
in the political criteria required for full membership of the EU.

Lagendijk said the European parliament's forthcoming report on Turkey
would praise positive developments in Turkish-Armenian relations and
the Turkish president's landmark visit to Armenia in September.

He also welcomed direct contact between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdish
leaders but stated Turkey's increasing strategic importance could not
be a substitute to domestic reform.

European support for Kurdish television Lagendijk welcomed the Kurdish
broadcast, which will start on Turkish Radio and Television, or TRT,
for 12 hours each day as of Jan. 1, as an important step and expressed
the wish to see progress on the rights of Alevis.

In the meantime, Lagendijk also met with Freedom and Solidarity Party,
or Ã-DP, leader, Ufuk Uras. The European parliamentarian said he
had observed President Abdullah Gül's determination over the EU
process, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an was
pragmatic about the matter, learned the Hürriyet Daily News &
Economic Review.

Turkey's State Minister Mehmet Å?imÅ?ek also attended the
meeting and responded to questions from the Greek Cypriot member of
the European parliament, Marios Matsakis, who complained about the
government's defense expenditure. Å?imÅ?ek replied if
Turkey became a member of the EU, the country would not be in need of
such a big army.

Dink issue unresolved
Late Wednesday, the French ambassador to Ankara, Bernard Emie, whose
country is currently holding the term presidency of the EU, gave a
reception on the occasion of the visit of members of the European
parliament's human rights sub-committee and the foreign affairs

Helen Flautre, head of the European parliament's human rights
sub-committee, expressed curiosity about the content of the report
drafted by the Prime Ministry Inspection Board concerning the
assassination of the Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink. "We
would like to learn the truth about the assassination," she said.

She also touched on the government's plans to build an additional
prison and transfer six inmates to the İmralı island off
Istanbul where the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or
PKK, Abdullah Ã-calan, is imprisoned. Flautre said the decisions of
the European Court of Human Rights must be fully implemented. "This is
important for both Ã-calan and other inmates," she said and added
long-term isolation meant ill treatment and that if the Turkish
government decided to end the isolation, that was a good thing.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress