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European Parliament Slams Turkey Anew

AINA (2006-09-06) Brussels — Marking the start of looming crisis between Europe and Ankara over its accession bid, European lawmakers overwhelmingly approved last Monday a highly critical Report, accusing Turkey of slowing down necessary political and institutional reforms for accession into the 25 members bloc.

The Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament voted through a Report, which slammed Turkey for not fulfilling the commitments it undertook when it received the green light last October to start talks.

“The European Parliament … regrets the slowing down of the reform process,” the Report said, pointing to what it called “persistent shortcomings” in a range of areas. The lawmakers said Turkey had shown “insufficient progress” in the areas of freedom of __expression, religious and minority rights, women’s rights and law enforcement since EU leaders agreed to start accession talks 11 months ago.

“We are not saying that we are not still committed to the talks or that we do not want Turkey to join the EU,” said Dutch MP Camiel Eurlings, who prepared the Report. “But we are sending a clear signal to Turkey that it must move quickly with its reforms,” he told the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Turkey must respect religious and ethnic minorities, women rights

The Report also censured insufficient progress on freedom of __expression and raised concerns over the lot of Turkey ‘s Christian religious minorities, calling for the recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and the reopening of the Theological Schools of the Greek and Armenian Communities. The Report also criticised the unusually high threshold for parliamentary representation, under which a political party must score 10 percent nationwide; the latter aims at making difficult or eliminating the possibility of Kurds being elected in Turkey ‘s national assembly. Violence against women and wide corruption were also pointed out as serious problems in the Report.

Turkey must ackowledge the Genocide

Moreover the Report demanded that, as a precondition of EU membership, Ankara should acknowledge that its predecessor, Ottoman Turkey, committed Genocide against Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians (Arameans) during WWI.

Armenian, Greek and Assyrian (Aramean) circles have welcomed the Parliament’s Report as objective and reflecting historical truth and highlighted the necessity for Turkey to cleanse its past in the same way as Germany did after WWII.

Turkey Snubs the Report

In an angrily reaction, the Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed the Report, saying that it lacked common sense and smelled of political bias against Turkey.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan told a press conference that Turkey has no intention to open its ports and air to Cypriot traffic.

The Turkish Prime Minister T. Erdogan also snubed the value of the Report as non binding and dismissed any genocide recognition.

Turkey ostensibly denies having committed a Genocide against its indigenous Christian populations of Armenian, Greeks and Assyrians, while its Penal Code maintains relevant provisions punishing any discussion, in oral or written form, on the genocide issue.

If by December 2006 Turkey has not complied, the annual EU summit of heads of state and government is likely to put on hold or revoke Turkey ‘s accession talks.

Any country wishing to join the 25-member bloc requires the approval of both the European Parliament and the agreement of all member states. The Report will go before a full parliament session at the end of the month and is likely to be raised when chief Turkish EU negotiator Ali Babacan visits Brussels from Wednesday. The conservative EPP-ED, the assembly’s largest political group, still favours a “privileged partnership” with Turkey rather than full EU membership, pointing at wide and profound opposition from the European public opinion for an eventual EU accession of a pre-dominentaly Muslim country.

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