European parliament approves talks with Turkey
28 September 2005
STRASBOURG – Despite concerns about Cyprus and human rights, the European Parliament on Wednesday formally approved opening negotiations with Turkey for membership in the European Union.
In a resolution adopted by 365 votes in favour, 181 against and 125 abstentions, the Parliament officially declared that accession negotiations between the E.U. and Ankara can start on October 3, as foreseen.
However, European deputies also approved, by a narrow margin, a proposal by centre-right wing factions to postpone the vote on approving the protocol extending Turkey’s customs union with the E.U. and all its members, including Cyprus.
Although Turkey approved the customs union with all 25 members, it added an appendix which said that this did not signify recognition of the Greek-led government of Cyprus.
The appendix, the Parliament declared in the resolution, “cast serious doubts on (Turkey’s) willingness to fully implement all provisions” of the customs union protocol.
The European Commission is therefore to assess at the end of 2006 if Ankara has fully implemented the protocol. If not, it could lead to a cessation of the negotiations.
Turkey occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 in protest at a Greek-Cypriot coup on the island and is the only country not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara recognizes the Turkish- Cypriot north of Cyprus as the island’s only legitimate government.
The European Parliament also voiced its concern about criminal proceedings against Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, who has been charged with public denigration of Turkish identity for telling a newspaper, “Thirty thousand Kurds were killed here, one million Armenians as well. And almost no one talks about it.”
It also raised questions about an article in the Turkish penal code that criminalizes “acts against fundamental national interests”.
In the debate before the vote, British Minister for Europe Douglas Alexander, speaking on behalf of the E.U. presidency, said Turkey still has a lot to do to reach European standards.
However, he noted that thanks to its desire to join the E.U., Ankara had already achieved impressive progress.
E.U. Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn said that the bloc needs a stable, democratic and increasingly prosperous Turkey that accepts European values, which is why it was decided to start accession talks.
“The E.U. expects the full implementation of the additional protocol, including (the removal of) all obstacles to the free movement of goods,” Rehn said.
Several deputies called on Ankara not to wait until the end of accession negotiations – which could last up to 15 years – before recognizing Cyprus.
Social-democrat faction leader Martin Schulz of Germany’s SPD party said, “It can not be that a country applies for membership but does not recognize all member states.
Speaking in favour of Turkey’s accession to the E.U., British parliamentarian Andrew Duff said, “It is extraordinary that those who have profited so much from E.U. integration in terms of prosperity, security and liberal democracy should refuse to extend these prizes to Turkey.”
Duff also argued that the Cyprus issue could not be resolved if Turkey is not allowed to join the Union.
However, another British deputy, Roger Helmer, supported the proposal of conservative German politician and possible future Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has called for a privileged partnership for Turkey, rather than full E.U. membership.
The key condition, he said, should be “democratic accountability”.
Subject: German news