TODAY.AZ / Politics

EU debates 'fair but tough' Turkey report

26 September 2006 [20:08] - TODAY.AZ
The European parliament insists controversial conclusions on Turkey's EU membership bid are "fair but tough."

In a heated Strasbourg debate on Tuesday rapporteur Camiel Eurlings hit back at his critics, saying his hard-hitting findings are all based on facts.

"Unfortunately there is reason for criticism," he declared. "We regret the slow down in reforms and our criticism centres on the main political reforms we wish to see in place."

This sentiment was echoed by the Finnish EU presidency during the plenary debate.

"We share the concerns over reforms," Paula Lehtomaki, Finnish Europe minister said. "Turkey needs to give fresh impetus to reforms."

Eurlings used the debate to pressure Turkey to amend its penal code and afford full freedom of expression to its citizens.

Article 301 of the Turkish penal code has come under attack in Brussels - the subsection makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness."

"Journalists still face trial on vague grounds of insulting Turkey according to the notorious article 301," EU enlargement commissioner told MEPs.

"I cannot imagine an EU member state that doe not respect freedom of expression," he added.

The Eurlings report also calls on Ankara to improve freedom of religion.

"Properties are still be taken away," Eurlings declared. "Let this stop. Give properties back to the religious minorities."

On Cyprus, his report calls for a normalisation of relations and full implementation of the Ankara protocol.

But Turkish MPs have slammed the report as "nasty" and unfair.

And in an attempt to appease his Turkish critics, Eurlings stressed that he would be personally seeking to tone down controversial conclusions on Armenia.

"Certain things were added to my report during the vote in the foreign affairs committee," he said.

Eurlings insists it was never his intention to force the Turks to formally recognise this chapter of their history.

"This amendment was added when my report was being debated in the parliament's foreign affairs committee, and it is an amendment I regret," the Dutch MEP said.

"I said that formal recognition of the past is important but not a criterion. I do hope for Turkish accession and I hope my tough but fair report will be seen as an encouragement for Turkey."



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