Progress towards accession by Turkey

Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by congratulating Mr Oostlander on this very fine and balanced report.It is a fact that there are those in this House who believe that Turkey should not be a candidate country. It is unfortunate that there is no clear and unambiguous motion to this effect that would enable us to definitely determine what the majority in this House thinks about that. I take the view that Turkey should remain the candidate country that it already is. It has to be conceded that it is not a candidate country like many others, in which the process can be completed relatively easily and in relatively few years. Turkey is in a particular situation. I admit that those of its governments that made a clear commitment to the secular state would also concede that. Turkey has, unfortunately, done little over past years to take the progressive actions – including in terms of their practical implementation – that we are again, and quite rightly, calling for today. The previous government, however – that formed by the AKP – did show very marked desire for reform and did take definite action to implement it. There may be some in this House who, precisely because it is an AKP government that is making progress, believe that Turkey should no longer be a candidate. I, though, believe that there are very good reasons why it should remain one, and there are very many good reasons for Europe to insist on the reforms not only being continued but also implemented.That is certainly one of the crucial difficulties. I ask that the Commission, in its report to the Council – which will take the decision and with which the power to do so must remain – should not limit itself to merely assessing what has been decided, but should also consider what has been implemented. I know that Commissioner Verheugen will do that. I, personally, would see it as a very great achievement if visible progress were to be made by the end of this year in implementing the measures that Turkey has adopted.If I may turn to the role of the armed forces, then something equally significant has taken place, in that it has clearly been diminished. If what Commissioner Verheugen has said is the case, and the Turkish Government takes a positive line on the Cyprus issue, then that has to do with the diminished role of the military, for if there was one decisive point on which the military had previously stonewalled, it was of course the negotiations on Cyprus. For the Turks, this is of course about the evidence – or lack of it – of a real reduction in the role of the military.Turning to respect for human rights, it is quite apparent that progress has been made, but that there is a need for much more of it. I refer here also to the Kurdish issue, which is, I know, still a very thorny one for the Turks, including as it does the issue of respect for the borders of neighbouring countries with a Kurdish population. However, this is of course, on the assumption that such Kurdish regions are not used as bases for military or terrorist attacks on Turkey.So let me reiterate my belief that we should hold fast to our position and rigorously scrutinise compliance with the criteria, just as we do with all the other countries.Let me close by saying something about Cyprus. While I hope that a solution will be found, and am very grateful to Commissioner Verheugen for his efforts, it must be clear to us that it must be a solution that does justice to both Cyprus and Europe, so that the European Union will be joined by a country that is capable of participating actively in its decision-making.