Enlargement

MEPs back Armenia genocide clause in Turkey report

05.09.06 @ 09:52

  1. By Lucia Kubosova

STRASBOURG - Turkey should recognize the Armenian genocide as a condition for its EU accession, MEPs argue in a highly critical report adopted by a broad majority in Strasbourg on Monday (4 September).

  • MEPs say Turkey should step up its efforts if it wants to go ahead on the route to EU membership (Photo: EUobserver.com)

The parliamentarians in the foreign affairs committee strongly criticised Turkey's slow pace on reforms and urged clear progress in solving the Cyprus issue.

They stressed that the next step in the country's membership talks "will have to depend" on its pre-accession talks committments "including a comprehensive settlement of border disputes and a comprehensive settlement regarding Cyprus."

The report by Dutch centre-right MEP Camiel Eurlings sparked a huge discussion in the prominent committee with over 300 amendments filed, but deputies from the biggest groups reached a compromise with a slightly less strict wording on several issues ahead of yesterday's vote.

The re-drafted document - to be voted on in plenary three weeks from now - highlighted some positive aspects of Turkey's performance en route to the EU - such as opening the first chapter of EU legislation, introducing new laws to fight corruption and broadcasting in Kurdish.

However, it insisted on "persistent shortcomings" in sensitive areas such as freedom of expression, religious, minority and women's rights as well as civil-military relations.

"We could see a clear delay of reforms in Turkey which was reflected in the report – I hope the Turkish authorities will now take our message on board," Mr Eurlings told EUobserver after the vote.

"We wouldn't help the country by hiding the truth," he added.

Some deputies expressed their concerns over the impact of the strong language in the parliament's annual evaluation – ahead of the European Commission's report on Ankara due on 24 October.

"Being a hero in Strasbourg is easy but will this report as it is written actually help Turkey's real reformers? No, it will make their life and work harder," argued German Green deputy Cem Ozdemir.

Armenia divisive

Dutch Socialist member Jan Marinus Wiersma commented that a compromise text backed by the committee "is more positive than the original proposal, but I'm afraid that the call for recognition of genocide of Armenians will attract the most attention in Turkey."

"This issue has so far not been specified as one of the formal criteria so to suggest that it is a 'prerequisite' for Turkey's accession is bound to spark controversy," he added.

British liberal deputy Andrew Duff also criticised the suggestion - filed by the Belgian socialist MEP Veronique de Keyser - as "very bad, uniting the far right and far left forces in the parliament."

He also pointed out that the parliament's foreign affairs committee should have expressed "greater appreciation of Turkey's contribution to the foreign policy and security initiatives that the EU is also involved in."

Turkey's parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on the government's proposal to send troops to Lebanon as part of the UN peace-keeping force, with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging deputies to join European countries in the mission.

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