Minister for European Affairs Paula Lehtomäki in the European Parliament, Address on Turkey
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Dear Members of the European Parliament,
The Presidency would like to thank the European Parliament, and especially rapporteur Camiel Eurlings, for the comprehensive report on Turkey's progress towards accession. The Presidency is fully aware of and welcomes the Parliament's active engagement in the enlargement process and in Turkey's accession process in particular.
Every debate provides a good opportunity to increase awareness of Turkey's accession process, to engage the citizens of the EU Member States and of Turkey in this process, and to support the Turkish government in its accession path. I can assure you that the Presidency will take due note of the views of the European Parliament.
The Commission will present a new Progress Report on Turkey's accession process on 8 November, and the Council will examine the report very carefully. In the meantime, the Presidency wants to call your attention to a few issues concerning the current phase of Turkey's accession negotiations.
The Presidency shares the European Parliament's concerns regarding Turkey's reform process. Turkey needs to give new impetus to the pace of the political reform and vigorously pursue the reform process. Full and effective implementation of the reforms is of utmost importance for Turkey to ensure the irreversibility and sustainability of the changes. Concrete results are required.
We also share your views on Turkey's limited progress in such crucial fields as fundamental freedoms and human rights. Even if Turkey has made significant progress compared to the situation five years ago, further tangible reforms are necessary especially in the areas of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, cultural rights, women's rights, and combat against torture and ill-treatment. In the revised Accession Partnership, most of these issues are defined to be among the short-term priorities that Turkey needs to meet without delay.
At present, the Presidency looks forward to the adoption of the ninth legislative package with a view to being able to address some of the outstanding issues. We reiterate that the new laws need to be fully in line with the EU standards.
In the area of freedom of expression, in particular, the Council expects immediate action to avoid legal action being brought against people who have expressed non-violent opinions and thus violated certain provisions of the Turkish Penal Code. As for freedom of religion, we expect that Turkey fully and without delay implement the legislation that provides for the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities in compliance with the European standards.
Like the Parliament, we are equally concerned about the tense situation in south-east Turkey. The Presidency has condemned the recent bomb attacks in several locations in Turkey as irrational acts of terrorism. Terrorist activities can never be justified. This is a complex entity of issues that we closely monitor as a part of the ongoing reform process. Turkey needs to swiftly develop a comprehensive approach to help reduce regional disparities with a view to enhancing the economic, social and cultural opportunities of all Turkish citizens, including those of Kurdish origin.
In addition to the Copenhagen political criteria, Turkey's progress in meeting the accession criteria is measured in relation to the requirements clearly set out in the Negotiating Framework - including the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, which is an essential element of the advancement of the negotiations. Turkey must apply the Protocol fully in its relations with all EU Member States and remove all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on means of transport. The opening of negotiations on the relevant chapters depends on Turkey's implementation of its contractual obligations concluded with the EU Member States. Failure to implement these obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations.
We will make sure that the progress made on the key issues, set out in the Declaration of the EC and its Member States on 21 September 2005, will continue to be monitored this year.
Compliance with the Union's standards and membership criteria requires hard work and continuous efforts and determination. Our message is clear and consistent. We attach particular importance to Turkey's accession process, and I can assure you that the Presidency will do its best in order to facilitate further progress in the negotiations.
The Union will continue to support Turkey in its efforts, but progress will depend on Turkey's performance. The accession process will proceed provided that Turkey respects its commitments to the carrying out of the reforms and satisfies the existing obligations.