Howard Hudson

European Parliament
Tiscali, Europe
Oct 3 2005

Embrace Turkey or "end up a Christian club"

EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg last night failed to
bury the hatchet ahead of accession talks with Turkey. Vienna is
insisting Turkey be offered the next best thing to full membership;
Ankhara says it will walk away if full accession is not on the table.

The impasse is clear and deep: the negotiating mandate has to be
agreed by all 25 member states before entry talks can begin. And
with polls saying 70% of Austrians are against Turkey's membership,
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel says he wants the EU to admit popular
concerns. And offer "privileged partnership" instead.

After getting the go-ahead to begin talks nine months ago, there's now
a palpable sense of frustration and increasing feelings of betrayal on
the streets of Turkey. Sensing this, and echoing earlier declarations
made by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, UK Foreign Minister Jack
Straw warned of a "theological-political divide, which could open up
even further down the boundary between so-called Christian-heritage
states and those of Islamic heritage".

Seeking some kind of diplomatic manna, Mr Straw added: "I hope and
pray that we may be able to reach an agreement".

In a separate development, the European Parliament has postponed
voting to extend Turkey's association agreement to the 10 new member
states. MEPs feared that Ankhara's declaration that the protocol
does not mean any form of recognition of Cyprus would form part of
the ratification process in the Turkish parliament and thus gain
legal force.

However, Parliament did agree: "the Commission and the Council take
the view that Turkey has formally fulfilled the last conditions for
starting the accession negotiations on 3 October 2005".

During the negotiations, which are open-ended and will not
automatically lead to Turkish EU membership, Turkey should be kept
under permanent scrutiny and pressure to ensure that it maintains
"the pace of the necessary reforms". Parliament also said it considered
Turkish recognition of "the Armenian genocide ... to be a prerequisite
for accession".

On other issues, MEPs voiced their concern about the criminal
proceedings against Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, about article 305
of the penal code which criminalizes "acts against the fundamental
national interest", about the restrictions on foreign funding for
associations, and about the "Law on Foundations" concerning religious

Parliament wants each negotiation session at ministerial level to be
preceded by an assessment of the fulfilment of the political criteria,
both in theory and in practice, "thus exerting permanent pressure
on the Turkish authorities to maintain the pace of the necessary
reforms". Finally, Parliament stressed that the EU's capacity to
absorb Turkey remains an important consideration, and needs to be
monitored by the Commission during negotiations.

Accession talks with the Turkish delegation are due to begin at 3pm
GMT. Asked how great the fallout would be if the situation remained
deadlocked, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said: "It would
certainly be a bad day. But we've had similar crises before. We've
found solutions before and we'll find one for Turkey." iew&content=408028

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress