European Report
September 28, 2006

EU/TURKEY : EP REPORT ON TURKEY TOUGH BUT FAIR, SAYS EURLINGS

The European Parliament approved the report on Turkey's progress
towards EU accession on 27 September by a large majority (429 in
favour, 71 against and 125 abstentions) The final version of this
document is "still tough but more balanced", said rapporteur Camiel
Eurlings (EPP-ED, NL), commenting on the vote.

After a stormy discussion in the EP Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET)
two weeks ago, the report triggered turbulent dispute at the plenary
session on 26 September too. The MEPs were to decide on that day on
the final wording of the report, assessing Turkey's preparation for
EU accession. The last version of the report, approved by AFET on 4
September, drew strong criticism from most of the political groups in
the Parliament for its "exceptionally critical tone" and "unbalanced
approach". Eurlings's assessment was harshly criticised also in
Ankara. Commenting on the document, a Turkish Foreign Ministry
spokesman said that "We think that some elements in the report are
written with political motives and without realism and are not in
accordance with the European Parliament's credibility and
seriousness."

Most controversial for both Ankara and Brussels was Paragraph 49,
which sets the recognition by Turkey of an alleged genocide of
Armenians as a precondition for its full EU membership. Commenting on
this particular paragraph, Camiel Eurlings admitted that it was
adopted against his will. "The Armenian genocide was added as a
precondition for accession at the very last moment. That was against
my will," said the rapporteur in an interview with the Turkish Daily
News on 25 September.

The amendments (80 in total), which were discussed at the plenary
session on 26 September, referred, in particular, to Paragraph 49.
The members of the PES and ALDE Groups intended to delete it. The
ALDE Group also suggested a modification of Paragraph 50 by deleting
its last sentence, which states that Turkey should establish good
relationships with the Greeks of Pontos and the Assyrians to fulfil
EU accession requirements. The ALDE Group tabled in total fourteen
amendments with a general aim to make the report more balanced and
objective. A similar approach was taken by the Socialist Group. They
intended, in particular, to change the wording of paragraphs
referring to the situation of the divided island of Cyprus by
stressing that both "Turkey and Cyprus should undertake new
initiatives to strengthen the ties between the two communities" and
underlining that it is the government of Cyprus which is responsible
for the continuing isolation of northern Cyprus.

The EPP-ED Group, known for its critical attitude towards Turkey's EU
candidacy, tabled five amendments, including a proposal for a new
paragraph (31 a), referring to the forthcoming visit by Pope Benedict
XVI to Turkey. Taking into consideration recent events after the
Pope's recent speech, in which he quoted a 14th century Christian
emperor and caused a wave of anger in the Muslim world, including
Turkey, the EPP-ED Group suggested that the report emphasise the hope
that "the visit will contribute to strengthening dialogue between the
Christian and Muslim worlds".

The vote at the EP's plenary session resulted in "further improvement
of the report", said Eurlings. He expressed his satisfaction that the
Parliament decided to delete Paragraph 49 (322 in favour, 283 against
and 40 abstentions), stressing that there are no extra preconditions
for the accession of Turkey except for those conditions which were
set 13 years ago in Copenhagen. "If Turkey complies with them, it
will become a fully-fledged member of the EU," said Eurlings. He also
strongly defended the final wording of Paragraph 50, saying that it
does not set a new condition but just puts pressure on Turkey to
establish good relations with such minorities as the Greeks of Pontos
and the Assyrians. The MEPs also voted in favour of the new Paragraph
31 a.

Despite the adopted amendments, the report is still very rigorous. It
calls on the government in Ankara to recognise the Republic of
Cyprus, withdraw its forces from the island and lift its embargo on
Cypriot vessels and aircraft. It reminds Turkey that a lack of
progress in implementing the Ankara Protocol "will have serious
implications for the negotiation process, and could even bring it to
a halt". It also calls on "both Greece and Turkey to refrain from
tension-prone military activities". Moreover, the MEPs stressed that
Ankara has to introduce freedom of expression and amend Article 301
of its Penal Code.