Euro Parliament signals support for progress in talks
by Ali Ünal
Mar 13, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Mar 13, 2014 12:00 am
European Parliament approves Turkey's progress report and indicates it will support the opening of two negotiation chapters despite certain criticisms
Ankara - The European Parliament approved Turkey's 2013 Progress Report yesterday in Strasbourg.
During the debates a number of amendments were tabled, particularly those by the European United Left and the Green group. When it came to the vote, 475 MEP's voted for and 153 voted against the resolution.
In the report, the European Parliament encouraged Turkish authorities to undertake the reforms needed to promote social, cultural and economic rights of the Kurdish community.
The MEPs also encourage Turkey to pursue electoral reform, including lowering the 10 percent electoral threshold, and efforts to combat violence against women and empower civil society.
And the reforms of lowering the 10 percent electoral threshold, and efforts to combat violence against women and empower civil society. The EP also asked the European Council (EC) to make efforts to open accession negotiating chapters 23 and 24, on the judiciary and fundamental rights and on justice and home affairs. On the other hand, the MEPs expressed concern over recent allegations of high-level corruption in Turkey and stressed that constitutional reform must remain the top priority for its modernization and democratization, in a resolution voted on Wednesday. The MEPs also point out that a draft law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and a draft Internet law, which are seen as restricting fundamental freedoms, take Turkey away from meeting the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession. In their assessment of Turkey's 2013 progress report, they also said its negotiations with the EU must continue to provide a clear framework for Turkey's reforms. The 2013 Progress Report also discussed the plenary debate on Tuesday in the EP.
In his speech, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle remarked, "Over the past year there have been positive developments but also reasons for serious concern." The opening of accession negotiations on the regional policy chapter, the signing of the readmission agreement and launch of the visa liberalization dialogue and Turkey's key role in the resumption of the Cyprus settlement were mentioned on the positive side by Commissioner Füle. On the other hand, the government's response to the recent corruption allegations, in particular the adoption of legislation that affects the functioning of the judiciary and freedom of expression were criticized by Füle, who added that they will report extensively on these developments in the forthcoming Progress Report in October.
In his speech, Füle underlined the necessity for close cooperation with Turkey before legislation is envisaged and drafted. He also urged the Council to formulate, at last, a roadmap or, opening benchmarks for chapter 23 of the accession negotiations. The 2013 Progress Report on Turkey highlights a number of important steps taken by Turkey over the past 12 months, notably the adoption of a fourth judicial reform package and the start of a peace process to end terrorism and violence in the southeast of the country.
At the same time, the report emphasizes the pressing need to develop a truly participatory democracy that is able to reach out to all segments of society, as well as the clear requirement to further amend criminal legislation and reform its interpretation by the courts so as to ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These issues underline the importance for the EU to enhance its engagement with Turkey, especially on fundamental rights, so that it remains the benchmark for reforms in the country. Turkey's EU Ministry has also issued a progress report concerning the country's membership bid. "The progress report does not represent a reaction to the European Commission's 2013 report but seeks to inform the public about Turkey's continued commitment to reforms and to celebrate our achievements despite some difficulties we have encountered during accession talks," Mevlut Cavuşoğlu said. There has been speculation concerning claims that the EU may suspend accession negotiations with Turkey; however, speculation ended after statements made by Peter Stano, who is the spokesperson for Füle, in an online interview with Daily Sabah in recent days. Stano stated that the EU is not planning to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey this fall and added that a suspension of talks was currently not on the agenda despite some concerns with regard to recent developments in Turkey. Stano said that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit provided the opportunity to underline Turkey's strategic importance for the EU. "The EU should remain the anchor for reforms in Turkey, especially in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms."
Füle also continued his support of Turkey's EU negotiations process despite making some critical remarks with regard to recent developments. In the closing remarks of his speech at the EP, Füle asked the parliament, "Do we want the EU to continue to be the benchmark for reforms in Turkey or not?" Turkey applied for EU membership over 25 years ago, but was not confirmed as a candidate until 1999, with negotiations starting in 2005.