EUROPA (press release), Belgium
Sept 28 2005

Speech by Mr Olli Rehn



Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enlargement

"Accession negotiations with Turkey: the journey is as important as
the final destination"

European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 28 September 2005


Introduction

Let me first extend a warm welcome to the new observer Members of
Parliament from Bulgaria and Romania. I am very happy to see that you
are participating in the work of this House, and I am looking forward
to cooperating with you in the future.

This debate about Turkey is timely. We are on the eve of the date
fixed by the European Council for starting accession negotiations
with Turkey. This opens a new phase in the EU-Turkey relations.

The reasons which led the EU to decide to open accession negotiations
with Turkey are unchanged: the EU needs a stable, democratic and
prosperous Turkey, in peace with its neighbours, which takes over the
EU values, policies and standards.

The start of the negotiations will give a strong push for those in
Turkey, who want to reform the country to meet the European values of
rule of law and human rights; they are also a way for the EU to have
leverage on the direction of these reforms.

The conditions set in the December European Council conclusions are
met: First, the six pieces of legislation, including the penal code,
identified by the Commission in last year's Recommendation entered
into force on 1 June. Second, Turkey signed Additional Protocol to
Ankara Agreement on 29 July.

Additional Protocol

In this context, I would like to thank the chairman of the Committee
of Foreign Affairs and the rapporteur, Mr Elmar Brok, for putting
forward the recommendation to give assent to the conclusion of the
Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

Let me make some comments in light of the developments in recent
weeks.

We regret the fact that Turkey had to issue a declaration upon
signature of the Additional Protocol. This obliged the EU Member
States to react and to lay down the obligations which we expect
Turkey to meet, in a statement adopted on
21 September. It stresses that:

- the declaration by Turkey is unilateral, it does not form part of
the Protocol and that has no legal effect on Turkey's obligations
under the Protocol;

- the EU expects full, non-discriminatory implementation of the
Additional Protocol, and the removal of all obstacles to the free
movement of goods, including restrictions on means of transport;

- the opening of negotiations on the relevant chapters depends on
Turkey's implementation of its contractual obligations to all Member
States; failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the
overall progress in the negotiations;

- recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the
accession process; accordingly, the EU underlines the importance it
attaches to the normalisation of relations between Turkey and all EU
Member States, as soon as possible;

- and finally, in the context of this declaration, the European
Community and its Member States agree on the importance of supporting
the efforts of the UN Secretary General to bring about a
comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem in line with relevant
UNSCRs and the principles on which the EU is founded, and that a just
and lasting settlement will contribute to peace, stability and
harmonious relations in the region.

Negotiating framework

Right before the start of accession negotiations, the Council should
adopt the negotiation framework proposed by the Commission. This
framework forms a solid basis for rigorous and fair negotiations with
Turkey.

Political reform

I have carefully read your joint motion for a resolution and I share
many of your concerns. I also agree with you that there is an
important link between the pace of negotiations and the pace of
political reforms.

I will spare no effort to repeat time and again that starting
accession negotiations marks only the beginning of a very demanding
and complex process: Turkey will need to continue and accelerate its
process of internal transformation and its transition towards a fully
fledged liberal democracy respectful of human rights and minorities.

Turkey's reform process is ongoing. Important legislative reforms
adopted earlier have now entered into force, leading to structural
changes in the judiciary. The human rights situation has improved,
but significant further efforts are required.

There have been recently some encouraging signals. The acknowledgment
by Prime Minister Erdogan of the existence of a `Kurdish issue' is a
landmark. His trip to Diyarbakir suggests the importance the
Government attaches to the economic and social development of the
South East of Turkey.

The academic conference on the Armenian issue could finally take
place in Istanbul last week-end, with the support of the government
and despite last-minute attempts by an administrative court to cancel
it. These attempts were strongly condemned by PM Erdogan and Vice-PM
Abdullah Gül. This is a step forward.

However, in order to be fully credible, Turkey's commitment to
further political reforms should be translated into more concrete
achievements for the benefit of all Turkish citizens.

Despite the efforts of the authorities, implementation on the ground
remains uneven. On the one hand, there are signs that the judiciary
is enforcing the reforms. Several positive court judgements have been
made in relation to cases on freedom of expression, freedom of
religion and the fight against torture and ill-treatment.

On the other hand, there have been contradictory decisions,
particularly in the area of freedom of expression where, for example,
journalists continue to be prosecuted and, on occasion, convicted,
for expressing certain non-violent opinions.

The case of Orhan Pamuk is emblematic of the difficulties the Turkish
authorities face to ensure effective and uniform implementation of
the reforms and of the struggle between the reformers and the
conservatives in Turkey.

The respected novelist is prosecuted by a district judge of Istanbul
under art 301 of the new Penal Code for `denigrating Turkish
identity'. Yet, an earlier investigation by another prosecutor was
dropped following a different interpretation of the same Penal Code,
which states in the same article, 301 that expression of opinion with
the purpose of criticism does not require penalties!

The Commission made already very clear that its assessment of the new
Penal Code, in particular on the doubtful provisions related to
freedom of expression, would depend on how actually these provisions
are implemented.

The prosecution of Mr Pamuk raises serious concerns in this respect.
If this is indeed the direction taken by the judiciary in Turkey,
then the Turkish Penal Code will have to be amended in such a way
that freedom of expression is not subject to the very particular
beliefs of some district judge anymore, but simply follows European
standards as we all know them.

Another problem: fundamental problems encountered by non Muslim
religious minorities persist. There is an urgent need to address
these in a comprehensive manner via the adoption of legislation in
line with the relevant European standards. A draft Law on Foundations
is currently pending in Parliament but we have made it clear to the
Turkish authorities that the current draft still falls short of EU
standards.

On these issues, the Commission will continue to monitor closely the
progress in meeting the Copenhagen political criteria fully. We shall
make a detailed analysis in our Regular Report, to be published on 9
November.

I want to add that we shall propose a revised Accession Partnership
which will list the priorities that Turkey needs to meet, including
in the political area. This will serve as a roadmap for future
political reforms and as a yardstick against which to measure future
progress.

Conclusion

L'Union Europénne se trouve à un moment crucial, dont nous ne devons
pas sous-estimer l'importance. En ouvrant des négociations d'adhésion
avec la Turquie, nous prenons une option forte sur la poursuite de la
métamorphose politique, économique et sociale de ce pays. Ce faisant,
nous respectons nos engagements à son égard.

J'adresse à la Turquie le message que nous devons construire des
relations basées sur une confiance réciproque. Je fais confiance aux
autorités turques pour qu'elles s'embarquent dans ce voyage avec une
attitude ouverte et que le Trois Octobre fournisse l'occasion d'un
nouveau départ. La démonstration d'un engagement sans ambiguïté ni
arrière-pensées envers la transformation démocratique et les valeurs
européennes sera certainement le meilleur atout de la Turquie pour
gagner le soutien de l'opinion publique en Europe.

Au cours de la période à venir, la Turquie aura l'opportunité de
démontrer qu'elle est sérieusement engagée à intégrer les valeurs
européennes. Les pays qui souhaitent adhérer à l'Union doivent en
effet partager notre vision de l'Europe et notre conception de
relations internationales basées sur la démocratie, l'état de droit,
les droits de l'homme et la solidarité. Ils doivent également
partager nos normes, que ce soit entre autres dans le domaine social,
environnemental ou industriel. Si l'Union Européenne prend un pari
sur leur adhésion future, c'est parce que nous croyons aussi que
c'est dans notre meilleur intérêt et que c'est pour le bénéfice de
nos concitoyens. Je m'engage personnellement devant cette Assemblée à
mettre en `uvre rigoureusement nos critères et conditions.

Comme je l'ai dit à de nombreuses reprises, le voyage est aussi
important que la destination finale. Bien que l'objectif commun des
négociations soit l'adhésion, de telles négociations sont de par leur
nature même ouvertes quant au résultat. Mais c'est dans notre intérêt
réciproque que ce processus soit encadré dans des principes clairs et
rigoureux tels que ceux prévus dans le cadre de négociation. Ceci est
la meilleure garantie d'un succès.