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EU Draft Report on Turkey's Progress Towards Accession

2006/2118 (INI)

6.6.2006

DRAFT REPORT on Turkey's progress towards accession
2006/2118(INI)

Committee on Foreign Affairs

Rapporteur: Camiel Eurlings

PR_INI

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on Turkey's progress towards accession
(2006/2118(INI))

The European Parliament,

    having regard to the Turkey 2005 Progress Report of the Commission (COM(2005)0561),
    having regard to its resolution of 28 September 2005 on the opening of negotiations with Turkey[1],
    having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2006 on the Commission's 2005 enlargement strategy paper (2005/2206(INI))[2],
    having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2004 on the 2004 regular report and the recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey's progress towards accession[3],
    having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2005 on the role of women in Turkey[4],
    having regard to the Negotiating Framework with Turkey of 3 October 2005,
    having regard to Council Decision 2006/35/EC of 23 January 2006 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with Turkey[5], setting out short-term and medium-term priorities,
    having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 389/2006 of 27 February 2006 establishing an instrument of financial support for encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot Community[6],
    having regard to Turkey's Declaration with regard to Cyprus of 29 July 2005, the Council's Declaration of 21 September 2005 and Turkey's Action Plan of 28 January 2006,
    having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,
    having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6‑0000/2006),

A.  whereas on 3 October 2005 the Council approved a framework for negotiations with Turkey on its accession to the EU, thus enabling the negotiations to begin immediately after that meeting, and whereas the Commission is currently undertaking a formal process of examination of the acquis, which is advancing in certain policy areas,

B.   whereas the advancement of the negotiations will have to be guided by the accomplishment of the priorities set out in the Accession Partnership, the requirements of the Negotiation Framework and the full implementation of the provisions stemming from the Association Agreement (Ankara Agreement) and the Additional Protocol thereto, including a comprehensive settlement of border disputes and a comprehensive settlement regarding Cyprus,

C.  whereas compliance with all the Copenhagen criteria has always been the basis for accession to the EU,

D.  whereas Parliament decided in its resolutions of 15 December 2004 and 28 September 2005 that the opening of accession negotiations is to be recommended so long as it is agreed that, in the first phase of the negotiations, priority is given to the full implementation of the political criteria, that each session of the negotiations at ministerial level is to be preceded by an assessment of the political criteria not only in theory but also in practice, thus exerting permanent pressure on the Turkish authorities to maintain the pace of the necessary reforms, and that a full programme of clear targets, timeframes and deadlines should be fixed for the fulfilment of the political criteria,

E.   whereas, with a view to guaranteeing the sustainability and the irreversibility of the reform process, the EU should continue to monitor the scope of reforms and their implementation,

F.   whereas the Commission has concluded in its Progress Report that the pace of change slowed last year, that implementation remains uneven and that significant further efforts are required as regards fundamental freedoms and human rights, in particular freedom of expression, women's rights, religious freedoms, trade union rights and cultural rights, and the further strengthening of the fight against torture and ill-treatment,

G. whereas progress in the area of freedom of expression is still far from satisfactory, presenting a mixed picture featuring certain positive developments, such as the recent acquittals of Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu and Professor Baskin Oran, prosecuted under Articles 216 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, and of the author Orhan Pamuk, while a number of human rights defenders are still being prosecuted and journalists and publishers continue to face trials, for example the journalist Hrant Dink, whose case, despite his acquittal by a court ruling, has been referred to the Court of Cassation, and others, such as the human rights activist Eren Keskin, have been sentenced,

H. whereas the current draft of the Anti-Terror Law undermines previous reforms in the field of fundamental freedoms and human rights by reintroducing elements that had been cancelled during previous reforms, and whereas that draft may further restrict the exercise of those rights and freedoms by introducing wide definitions of the terms “terrorist act” and “terrorist offenders” and by extending the scope of the crimes falling under that law,

I.    whereas no progress has been made since Parliament's last report in addressing the difficulties faced by religious minorities, and whereas the expected Law on Foundations pending in the Turkish Parliament does not seem to remove all the shortcomings identified in the previous draft, such as the seizure of assets belonging to religious foundations, legal personality, the right to training of clergy and internal management, thus falling short of EU standards and the expectations of religious communities,

J.    whereas the “Emasya” Protocol signed in 1997 between the General Staff and the Ministry of the Interior allows, under certain conditions, for military operations to be conducted when internal security matters are at stake,

K. whereas the recrudescence of violence in the South East of the country and the revival of the terrorist activities of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) constitute a serious threat to peace, stability and democracy in Turkey,

L.   whereas a courageous and promising signal given last year by Prime Minister Erdogan, in which he addressed the Kurdish issue, has not yet been followed by substantial actions,

M. whereas there is lack of a comprehensive strategy on the part of the Turkish Government for the South East region aiming at its economic and social development, and whereas the South-Eastern Anatolia project has to date had a very limited impact in Diyarbakir and other provinces,

N. whereas broadcasting in Kurdish has been allowed via three broadcasters (Söz TV and Gün TV in Dyarbakir and Medya FM radio in Urfa), and whereas, although this remains subject to time restrictions and other constraints, represents a positive sign towards minorities in Turkey,

O.  whereas Turkey has still to implement outstanding decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and whereas judgments were delivered in 290 cases by the ECHR in 2005, 270 of which contained a finding of at least one violation,

P.   whereas the Turkish Government is a Contracting Party to the Convention establishing the ECHR, and whereas criticism by the Turkish Government of rulings of the ECHR in specific cases can undermine acceptance of the rule of law among the Turkish public,

Q.  whereas more than 2000 applications for asylum by Turkish citizens were accepted by EU Member States in 2005,

R.   whereas the Commission concluded in its progress report that corruption remains a serious problem in Turkey, and whereas on Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index, Turkey had an average score of 3,5 (on a scale of 0 "highly corrupt" to 10 "highly clean"),

S.   whereas the Turkish economy showed strong growth (around 7,4%) and a growing volume of foreign direct investment in 2005;whereas, however, concerns remain regarding the current account deficit, which continues to grow, and the high unemployment rate (around 11,8% in March 2006),

T.   whereas Turkey's strategic geographic position in the region, together with a number of transnational issues (e.g. energy, water resources, transport, border management, the fight against terrorism), the dynamism of its economy and its human resources, enable it to play an important role in addressing the different challenges faced by the region,

U. whereas Turkey has not ratified or implemented the Protocol extending the Ankara Agreement and whereas this result, inter alia, in a continued embargo against vessels flying the Cypriot flag as well as vessels approaching from harbours in the Republic of Cyprus, denying them access to Turkish ports, and against Cypriot aircraft, denying them landing rights at Turkish airports,

V. whereas, as stated in the Declaration of the European Community and its Member States of 21 September 2005, the EU will closely monitor and evaluate full implementation of the Ankara Protocol by Turkey in 2006, and whereas the European Community and its Member States have declared that failure on the part of Turkey to implement its contractual obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations,

Democracy and the rule of law

1.   Regrets the slowing down of the reform process, as reflected in persistent shortcomings or insufficient progress in particular in the areas of freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, civil-military relations, law enforcement on the ground, women's rights, trade union rights, cultural rights and the independence of the judiciary;

2.
  Welcomes the Government’s initiative to resume the process of legislative change by submitting to the Turkish Parliament the ninth package of legislative reforms, including, inter alia, an Ombudsman Law, a Law on the Court of Accounts - permitting the auditing of military expenditure -, a Law on Foundations and measures to strengthen the functioning of the judiciary such as the Law on Administrative Procedures, measures to fight corruption, measures to facilitate the functioning of minority schools and measures to increase transparency in the funding of political parties;

3.   Expects that, in order to enable the ninth package to give a truly new impetus to the reform process, the Turkish Parliament will amend and subsequently adopt this package of legislative reforms, bearing in mind in particular the following:

-         the functioning and independence of the judiciary will be strengthened through appropriate measures to be included in a Settlement Law, a Law on Administrative Procedures and a Law on Administrative Legal Procedures;
-         the Law on Foundations will remove all existing restrictions faced by non-Muslim religious minorities as regards legal personality, the training of clergy, work permits, schools and internal management, and will properly address the issue of confiscated properties;
-         the Law on the Financing of Political Parties will bring about a real increase in transparency and put an end to corruption;
-         any remaining competence of military courts to try civilians will effectively be abolished;
-         international agreements such as the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will be signed and ratified;

4.   Expects that the new Anti-Terror Law will not further restrict the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms - as where, for example, meetings between a defendant and his lawyer can only take place in the presence of a law enforcement officer - and that it will strike the right balance between security needs and human rights guarantees;

5.   Calls on Turkey to ensure equal treatment before the law to all Turkish citizens during the whole legal process including investigations, trial, sentencing and detention, without derogations for Government officials, military staff or members of the security forces;

6.   Calls on Turkey to abolish or amend, at short notice, those provisions of the Penal Code, such as Articles 216, 277, 285, 288, 301, 305 and 318, which allow for arbitrary interpretations by judges and prosecutors leading to judgments which run counter to freedom of expression and freedom of the press and thus constitute a threat to respect for human rights and freedoms and negatively affect the progress of democracy;

7.   Recognises the improvements in legislation resulting from the efforts made since 2002 by the Turkish Government as regards the policy of zero tolerance towards torture, thereby fulfilling recommendations of the European Parliament; stresses that more effective implementing measures are needed, as is highlighted by the renewed increase in the number of reported cases of torture and ill treatment, especially in the South East, by law enforcement officials and the impunity often enjoyed by those officials; is concerned about the quality of law enforcement on the ground, which falls short of EU standards;

8.   Recognises the improvements in legislation resulting from the efforts made since 2002 by the Turkish Government to combat corruption and improve conditions of detention and access to legal aid; calls on the Turkish authorities to energetically pursue the fight against corruption on the ground;

9.   Notes that certain progress has been made as regards women's rights following the entry into force of the new Penal Code; stresses, however, that non-respect for women's rights in Turkey remains a matter of serious concern and underlines that further efforts need to be made to eradicate discriminatory practices and violence against women and to provide more shelters for women in distress; calls on Turkey to step up its efforts to ensure that women are able to assert to the full their right to an education;

10. Expresses its deep concern over the Şemdinli affair, which involved the bombing of a bookshop, allegedly by Turkish security forces, and the subsequent dismissal of the prosecutor Ferhat Sarikaya, which has been investigated by the Turkish Parliament; emphasises that it has serious concerns about the continued – not to say resurgent – role of the army in Turkish society; emphasises that objective and impartial investigations are necessary prerequisites to restoring public trust and ensuring the credibility of the judiciary;

11.
Reiterates its call for the electoral system to be reformed by reducing the threshold of ten per cent, thereby ensuring wider representation of political forces in the Grand National Assembly, including predominantly Kurdish parties;

12. Recalls that it regards the drafting of a new Constitution as a further and probably necessary reflection of the very fundamental nature of the changes required for EU membership, and notes that a modern Constitution may form the basis for the modernisation of the Turkish State;

13. Strongly condemns the killing of a judge of Turkey's highest court; is concerned about  the low level of security offered to such judges by the police despite clear and public threats; calls on the Turkish Government to remedy this situation;

Human rights and the protection of minorities

14. Deplores the fact that only limited progress has been reported over the last year as regards fundamental rights and freedoms; condemns violations of human rights and freedoms and constraints on the exercise of those rights and freedoms;

15. Reminds Turkey of its recommendation that current human rights inspection services be reformed by assigning their tasks to independent inspection services, which should be given sufficient resources to operate effectively in all regions of Turkey and empowered to investigate any police detention facility at any time while closely cooperating with independent Turkish human rights NGOs; stresses that there is an urgent need to consolidate and strengthen the capacity of institutions promoting and enforcing human rights;

16. Deplores the absence of progress in the area of freedom of religion since Parliament's last report; emphasises that the freedom of citizens to practise whichever religion or be part of whichever denomination they choose must extend to affording them similar legal and administrative opportunities to practise their religion, organise their communities, hold and administer community assets and train their clergy;

17. Reiterates its call on Turkish authorities, expressed in its previous resolutions, to fulfil their commitments regarding freedom of religion and to take concrete steps to eradicate obstacles facing religious minorities as regards, in particular, their legal status, the training of clergy and their property rights (the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for example, has suffered the expropriation of 30 properties in recent times); calls for an immediate stop to all seizure and selling off by the Turkish authorities of properties belonging to religious communities; calls for the immediate re-opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary and the public use of the ecclesiastical title of the Ecumenical Patriarch; calls for the protection and recognition of the Alevites, including the recognition of Cem houses as religious centres, and for all religious education to be voluntary and to cover not only the Sunni religion; calls for the protection of the fundamental rights of all Christian minorities and communities in Turkey (e.g. Greeks of Istanbul, Imvros and Tenedos);

18. Insists on Turkey's obligation to ensure that the protection of the fundamental rights of all religious communities is fully guaranteed; demands that a revised draft of the Law on Foundations, due to be adopted by the Turkish Parliament before its summer recess, must reflect recommendations made by the European Parliament and the Commission and must comply with European standards while satisfying the expectations of the multi-religious Turkish society;

19. Reiterates its call on the Turkish authorities to apply the ILO standards for trade union rights and to introduce further legislation prohibiting the employment of children;

20. Welcomes the opening of broadcasting in Kurdish, which may be regarded as an important step provided that it is followed by a further lifting of time restrictions and other constraints, allowing the free exercise of their cultural rights by Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin;

South East

21. Strongly condemns the resurgence of violence on the part of the PKK; stresses that there can never be an excuse for the violence that has been used against Turkish citizens in various parts of the country; expresses its solidarity with Turkey in its fight against terrorism;

22. Is deeply concerned about the resulting tensions in the South East, which constitute a serious threat to peace and stability in the region; calls on all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from using violence or reacting to it with violence; considers it important not to stretch the legal concept of terrorism in such a way as to bring too many crimes within the scope of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law, thereby jeopardising basic freedoms;

23. Calls on the Turkish authorities to apply European standards for the arrest and detainment of suspects; is concerned about the violence against children which resulted in casualties during riots in Diyarbakir in March; notes that a new Law on the Protection of Children adopted in July 2005 does not fully comply with international standards as regards the provisions related to juvenile offenders;

24. Calls on the Turkish Government to pursue a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue following Prime Minister Erdogan's encouraging statement of last year; considers it essential to strike a balance between the need to control the situation as regards security, avoiding civil-military strains, and effectively promoting the political dialogue and the economic and social development of the South East region through a comprehensive strategy supported by adequate means; calls on the Turkish Government to invest in the socio-economic development of the South East and to engage in a constructive dialogue with peaceful interlocutors;

25. Welcomes the adoption of the Law on internally displaced people which, if applied efficiently, can serve as an important instrument of redress; notes however that the continued presence of village guards and the resurgent violence is hampering the right to return; consequently, urges the Turkish authorities to disarm the village guards and to disband the village guard system;

Regional issues and external relations

26. Reaffirms its belief that a modern, democratic and secular Turkey could play a constructive role in promoting understanding between civilisations;

27. Takes note of the proposal by Turkey to establish a bilateral committee of experts in order to overcome the tragic experience of the past, and the position of Armenia regarding that proposal; urges both the Turkish Government and the Armenian Government to continue their process of reconciliation leading to a mutually acceptable proposal; urges Turkey to take the necessary steps, without any preconditions, to establish diplomatic and good neighbourly relations with Armenia and to open the land border at an early date, in accordance with the resolutions adopted by Parliament between 1987 and 2005;

28. Expresses its disappointment over the fact that, in spite of various reminders, Turkey continues to maintain restrictions against vessels flying the Cypriot flag and vessels approaching from harbours in the Republic of Cyprus, denying them access to Turkish ports, and against Cypriot aircraft, denying them landing rights at Turkish airports; reminds Turkey that this practice constitutes a breach by Turkey of the Association Agreement and the related Customs Union irrespective of the Protocol, as the restrictions infringe the principle of the free movement of goods;

29. Reminds Turkey that recognition of all Member States, including Cyprus, is a necessary component of the accession process; urges Turkey to fully implement the provisions stemming from the Association Agreement and its Additional Protocol; calls on the Turkish authorities to maintain their constructive attitude in finding a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question within the UN framework, leading to an equitable solution based upon the principles on which the EU is founded, and, pursuant to the relevant UN resolutions, to effect an early withdrawal of their forces in accordance with a specific timetable;

30. Welcomes the establishment of an instrument of financial support to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community; calls on the Council to make renewed efforts to reach an agreement on trade facilitation regulation concerning the northern part of Cyprus;

Negotiations

31. Reminds Turkey that the Council decision requires the Commission to report in 2006 on the full implementation by Turkey of the Ankara Protocol, and that a lack of progress in this regard will have serious implications for the negotiation process and could even bring it to a halt;

32.
Expects that, in line with its previous resolutions and the position taken by the Council and the Commission, the short-term priorities set out in the Accession Partnership will be accomplished before the end of 2007 and the medium-term priorities before the end of 2009; underlines that priority should be given to the full implementation of the political criteria in the first phase of the negotiations and that attaining these clear targets is a condition for a continuation of the negotiation process;

33.
Welcomes the proposal by the EU Presidency that the political criteria be addressed throughout the negotiation process, starting with the chapter covering education and culture; deeply regrets that no consensus has been reached on this proposal and that the political criteria will therefore only be addressed during the negotiations on certain policy areas; stresses that this makes it even more essential to respect the agreed terms for the achievement of the short and medium-term priorities in the Accession Partnership (before the end of 2007 and the end of 2009 respectively) so as to safeguard the necessary political reforms and the credibility of the accession process as such;

34.
Stresses that, in Turkey's own interests and in order to maintain confidence in the irreversibility of the reform process, it is important that the reforms be given impetus from within the country by the authorities themselves and are not merely the result of pressure from outside Turkey;

35. Stresses that the opening of negotiations is the starting point for a long-lasting process, which by its very nature is an open-ended process and does not lead a priori and automatically to accession;

36. Considers that, regardless of whether or not negotiations are successfully concluded, relations between the EU and Turkey must ensure that Turkey remains fully anchored in European structures;

37. Recalls that the EU's capacity to absorb Turkey while maintaining the momentum of integration is an important consideration in the general interest of both the EU and Turkey; regrets that the Commission has not been able to deliver the follow-up to the impact study in 2005; asks that it be provided with the follow-up to the impact study in 2006;

*
**

38. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Court of Human Rights and the Government and Parliament of Turkey.


[1] Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2005)0350.

[2] Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2006)0096.

[3] OJ C 226 E, 15.9.2005, p. 189.

[4] Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2005)0287.

[5]  OJ L 22, 26.1.2006, p. 34.

[6]  OJ L 65, 7.3.2006, p. 5.