Turkey: EU Reports Pave Way For Qualified Approval Of Entry Talks

By Ahto Lobjakas, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Two draft reports prepared by the European Commission, seen by RFE/RL,
suggest the commission will on 6 October recommend that the EU set a
date at its December summit for the start of accession talks with
Turkey -- subject, however, to stringent conditions. The reports
praise Turkey for its recent raft of democratic reforms, but identify
shortcomings. They also note that the accession of Turkey would
present significant challenges to the EU's existing policies.
Commission officials, speaking privately, say a positive decision is
virtually guaranteed, but it is likely to be accompanied by numerous
specific conditions.

Brussels, 1 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Some form of go-ahead next week
by the European Commission for Turkish entry talks now appears a
foregone conclusion.

However, two draft progress reports prepared by the European
Commission suggest that uncertainties abound, and that any decision is
likely to come with extensive conditions and qualifications attached
to allow more skeptical member states to support it.

The European Commission's annual progress report on Turkey praises
democratic reforms undertaken since 1999 and accelerated in the past
two years. However, it does not clearly say Turkey now meets the
so-called Copenhagen entry criteria dealing with democracy, the rule
of law, and human rights. Instead, a number of areas are identified
where Turkey is clearly at odds with what are described as "modern"
European standards.

Thus, the recognition that constitutional reforms have shifted the
balance of civil-military relations toward civilians comes with the
caveat that conflicting legal provisions allow the military to
continue to enjoy a degree of autonomy.

Turkey's new Penal Code, adopted a few days ago, receives wide praise
for abolishing the death penalty and enshrining women's rights.

The Penal Code also outlaws torture. The report notes there was a
marked decline in reported instances of torture in 2004 as compared
with 2003. However, an increase in claims of torture was recorded
outside of formal detention centers.

An EU fact-finding mission returned from Turkey last month and
concluded that Ankara is seriously pursuing its policy of zero
tolerance on torture. Again, however, the mission reported that
"numerous cases" of torture and ill treatment of detainees still
occur.

Similar conclusions are evident in other key judgments. Reforms are
praised, but continued contrary practices are noted.

Thus, the report says there have been a significant number of cases
where nonviolent expression of opinion is still prosecuted and
punished. Books were still being banned and writers put on trial in
2003.

In the field of human rights and the protection of minorities, the
report recognizes the introduction of two constitutional reforms and
eight legislative-reform packages since 1999. Turkey has adopted a
number of human rights treaties since 1999. It executes some judgments
of the European Court of Human Rights, but -- again -- not others.

Human-rights-monitoring bodies have been set up, as have specialist
training programs at the the Interior and Justice ministries, as well
as police. However, implementation of human rights reforms is said
not to be uniform across the country.

Turkey is criticized for not having signed the Framework Convention
for the Protection of National Minorities. It receives praise for
having allowed TVand radio broadcasts in minority languages, such as
Kurdish, Arabic, Bosnian, and Circassian. However, it is noted that
harsh restrictions exist limiting their length.

The report notes that Turkey constitutionally guarantees the freedom
of religion, but adds that non-Muslim communities continue to
encounter difficulties. Thus, Christians are said to occasionally
still be subject to police surveillance.

The second report analyzes the potential impact of Turkish membership
on the EU. It proceeds from the assumption that Turkey would not join
before 2014. That date marks the start of the new EU multiannual
budget cycle.

The assessment appears to be that most of the EU's current policies --
above all, farm support and regional aid -- will need to be radically
rethought so that they do not prove ruinously costly.

The study says a Turkish accession would be different from all
previous enlargements because of the country's population, size, and
geographical location.

The annual cost of farm support to Turkey is estimated to top 11
billion euros ($13.6 billion) ΓΆβ=82¬` or more than 10 percent of the
EU's current budget.

Long transitional periods are predicted for the free movement of
workers, and a potentially permanent "safeguard" measure may become
necessary to allow other EU member states to lock out Turkish labor if
their markets suffer ill effects.

Another major challenge is said to be the future management of the
bloc's external borders, as well as dealing with migration and asylum
issues once Turkey joins. Fighting organized crime, terrorism, and the
trafficking of human beings, drugs, and arms will also present
significant new challenges for the EU.

Turkey's membership in the visa-free Schengen area is said not to be a
"short-term" prospect after accession. This means that border controls
would remain in place.

Opportunities for the EU could arise in the form of heightened
security for the bloc's energy supplies. Turkey would provide direct
links to the Caspian countries, as well as the Persian Gulf.

The clearest positive potential for the EU emerges in the field of
foreign policy. As a country with a Muslim majority and a strategic
position, Turkey could valuably enhance the EU's role in the wider
Middle East. It could also serve as an important model for reform.

However, the report says that, in practical terms, Turkish and EU
policies are still often at variance regarding Iraq, the Caucasus, and
relations with the Muslim world.

Turkey could also become a channel for stabilizing EU influence in the
South Caucasus. Much is said to depend on Turkey's willingness,
though. In particular relations with Armenia will need to improve. The
study says reconciliation must be achieved over the mass killings of
Armenians in 1915 and 1916, which are widely called genocide. Turkey
must also contribute to the easing of tensions in the dispute between
Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning Nagorno-Karabakh.

The study says Turkey could also help the EU to stabilize Central
Asia.