European Parliament urges reforms in Turkey

By Asbarez | Thursday, 10 March 2011

BRUSSELS (—The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs has ratified a resolution on Turkey’s progress in EU accession that is widely viewed as the most critical report in recent years.

It was adopted on Wednesday by a large majority, following intense debates among members — and particularly between the Christian Democrats and Socialists.

The former eventually withdrew a proposed amendment suggesting the possibility of a privileged partnership for Turkey as an alternative to full EU membership, while the latter pushed for text stating that full EU membership is the goal. The final text describes the negotiations as a long-lasting and open-ended process.

The resolution, put forward by rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten, describes the accession process as having reached a deadlock. The Cyprus issue, lack of co-operation among Turkish political parties, and weakening respect for basic rights in Turkey are the key factors that hamper accession talks, Oomen-Ruijten said during the debate.

The report laments legal provisions which it described as limiting press freedom and freedom of expression. It expressed concern over long pre-trial detention periods and the arrest of journalists during a probe into alleged coup plans.

It also said not enough progress was being seen in women’s rights.

“There is legislation on domestic violence and so-called honour killings, but the implementation is lagging behind,” Oomen-Ruijten told the EP. “I also call on political parties to use the opportunity of the upcoming elections to strengthen women’s active engagement in politics.”

Minorities, she said, were also not receiving sufficient protection.

The resolution calls for wide-ranging constitutional reform aimed at transforming Turkey into a full-fledged pluralistic democracy, as well as changes to the electoral system — in particular, removing the 10% threshold for parliamentary representation.

On a more positive note, the report commends the progress made in civil-military relations, while urging full parliamentary oversight of the security forces, including the defence budget.

On foreign policy, Cyprus was the dominant topic. The report calls for Turkey to withdraw its forces from Cyprus immediately, to refrain from any new settlements of Turkish citizens on the island and to contribute in specific terms to a comprehensive agreement concerning ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus issue.