18th Jan 2022

Huge parliamentary majority for critical EU Turkey report

The European Parliament has voted strongly in favour of the critical report on Turkey's EU accession progress, in a Strasbourg plenary vote on Wednesday (27 September).

The 732-strong chamber supported the controversial report by the Dutch centre-right MEP Camiel Eurlings with 429 votes in favour, 71 against and 125 abstentions.

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The document criticises the human rights shortcomings of the EU hopeful but refrains from calling for a historical recognition of Armenian genocide as a pre-condition for Turkey's accession.

The controversial idea of the genocide clause was originally introduced to the draft report in the parliament's foreign committee earlier this month by Belgian socialist MEP Veronique de Keyser - but she herself later signed the amendment scrapping the clause.

On the other hand, a number of centre-right deputies expressed their disappointment after the genocide clause was dropped, with German MEP Renate Sommer pointing out that nobody could imagine that Germany would refer to the Holocaust "in quotation marks" or as the "so-called Holocaust."

Critics however argued that while a historical study into the World War I mass killings of Armenians is needed - as suggested by a preserved passage in the report - it should not become a new condition for Turkey to join the EU.

Czech centre-right MEP Jan Zahradil for example pointed out "We can no longer accept a manipulation with distant historical events and their use as a political instrument in the current context."

He added that the Czech Republic has its own negative experience with the retroactive abuse of its past - referring to the so called Benes decrees, post-World War II laws which led to the expulsion of Germans and Hungarians.

MEPs did, however, back another last-minute amendment introduced to the report only last week, on the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey.

The Pope clause expresses the hope that the visit will "contribute to strengthening inter-religious and intercultural dialogue between the Christian and Muslim world."

Open-ended talks

Speaking in Ankara on the day of the parliament's report, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government is ready to keep up the reform process aimed at joining the EU but would not agree to any extra conditions by the bloc.

"We're not seeking anything exclusive from the EU in the process ahead, in return, we naturally cannot accept bringing in new criteria," he told a press conference in Istanbul.

The MEPs' report stressed that Turkey's negotiations with the EU are of an "open-ended" nature and would not "a priori and automatically" lead to accession.

They pointed out that to achieve the country's membership, both Ankara and the EU need to make an effort, while noting that Europe would consider the issue of its own capacity to "absorb Turkey while maintaining the momentum of integration."

The European Commission is expected this autumn to come up with a study into the ability of the EU to take in new members, with the bloc's leaders set to discuss the issue at their December meeting in Brussels.

Turkey is set to be the hot topic of this autumn with Ankara unlikely to change its view and lifts its embargo on Cypriot ships and aircrafts by the EU's end of 2006 deadline.

The parliamentarians pointed out in Wednesday's report that a lack of Turkish progress on the Cyprus issue "will have serious implications for the negotiation process, and could even bring it to a halt."

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