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01 December 2006
Turkey is still unfit to join the EU – Commission Report 8 November 2006
On 8 November 2006 the European Commission reported on Turkey’s progress in preparing for EU membership following the opening of accession negotiations in October 2005. This makes dismal reading – in relation to each of the main criteria – political, economic, its capacity to assume the obligations of membership and EU-Turkey relations – Turkey has failed to deliver. The following points are worthy of note.

On 8 November 2006 the European Commission reported on Turkey’s progress in preparing for EU membership following the opening of accession negotiations in October 2005. This makes dismal reading – in relation to each of the main criteria – political, economic, its capacity to assume the obligations of membership and EU-Turkey relations – Turkey has failed to deliver. The following points are worthy of note.

Trade with EU Member States
In terms of EU-Turkey trade, Turkey still refuses to remove all restrictions on free movement of goods, including, in particular, restrictions on means of transport regarding Cyprus;

Political criteria
The Turkish military continues to be influential in both domestic and foreign policy issues including Cyprus, the Kurdish issue and secularism;

There remains a broad legal definition of national security and little if any control by civilian authorities over the military which is entitled by secret protocol to carry out military operations without recourse to the civilian law enforcement authorities;

The report concludes that little progress has been made in harmonising civil-military relations with EU norms. For example, fundamental issues including that statements by the military should relate only to defence, security and military matters and should be made only with the authority of the government. Equally, policy on national security and relations with neighbouring countries should be formulated by the civilian authorities and not the military;

Restrictions on freedom of expression are still in evidence;

The independence of the judiciary is questionable in practice as there is still not a clear separation between the judiciary and the executive;

Corruption is still rife among the judiciary and the public sector and there still remains a very broad definition of parliamentary immunity which is problematic in the fight against corruption;

Human rights and the protection of minorities
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered 196 judgments in the first 8 months of 2006 finding that Turkey had violated at least one article of the European Convention on Human Rights;

More than two thirds of new applications to the ECHR against Turkey in the past year have complained of a breach of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and a breach of Article 1, Protocol 1 (protection of property rights). 78 cases cite a breach of Article 2 (right to life) and 142 cases cite a breach of Article 3 (the prohibition on torture);

Turkey has tried to implement reforms regarding execution of judgments of the ECHR against it. However Turkey still represents 14.4% of cases pending for execution control;

With regard to the Ocalan case, Abdullah Ocalan was refused a retrial by an Istanbul Court in July 2006. This decision is being evaluated by the Committee of Ministers;

Regarding Cyprus, the Committee of Ministers will be examining measures relating to freedom of religion and education in order to close these issues in December 2006;

Regarding property rights in Cyprus the ECHR ruled that Turkey must provide a remedy that is effective redress for such violations, both in relation to the applicant in the Xenides-Arestis case and for all similar pending applications;

Cases of torture and ill-treatment are still being reported and the human rights position in the southeast is of grave concern;

The right to freedom of expression is still severely restricted – Article 301 of the Penal Code provides that insulting Turkishness, including the Republic of Turkey and organs of the state and state institutions, is a crime. This provision has been used to prosecute academics, human rights activists, writers, publishers and journalists;

In July 2006 the journalist, Hrant Dink, was given a 6 month suspended prison sentence for writing a series of articles on Armenian identity and thus “insulting Turkishness”;

Although on the face of the legislation, freedom of worship continues to be respected, in practice, non-Muslim religious communities suffer from discrimination and attacks on their clergy and places of worship. They have no access to legal personality and restricted property rights. The Greek Orthodox Halki seminary is still closed and it is illegal to use in public the title of Ecumenical Patriarch;

Discrimination against women still pertains and this stems in the main from a high illiteracy rate and a lack of education. In parts of the southeast girls are still not registered at birth and this can mean that forced marriages and “honour crimes” go unpunished because the girls cannot be traced;

Children’s rights are still a problem as there is still a high incidence of child labour, street children and child poverty;

The disabled and mentally ill suffer from a lack of services and infrastructure;
There has been no progress on trade union rights;

Turkey still does not recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service;

Minority rights in Turkey are not respected. In practice under the Treaty of Lausanne 1923 the minorities are Jews, Greeks and Armenians. For example, use of any language other than Turkish is illegal in political life; children whose mother tongue is not Turkish cannot learn their mother tongue in the public schooling system and there remains discriminatory language in school textbooks;

The Kurdish population still does not enjoy full rights and freedoms and the return of “internally displaced persons” has still not been implemented;

Greeks suffer discrimination regarding education and property rights, for example Greek land on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos is subject to confiscation by the Turkish authorities;

In conclusion the report records little progress “on ensuring cultural diversity and promoting respect for and protection of minorities in accordance with international standards”.

Regional issues and international obligations – Cyprus
Turkey is obliged to support efforts to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue under the auspices of the UN and to take steps to normalise bi-lateral relations with all member States, including Cyprus, as soon as possible;

All obstacles to free movement of goods must be removed but Turkey continues to deny access to its ports to vessels flying the Republic of Cyprus flag or where the last port of call has been Cyprus – this is in breach of the Customs Union agreement;

Turkey has tried to link its breaches of the Customs Union to the “isolation” of the Turkish Cypriot community but has been reminded by the EU on numerous occasions that it has a legal obligation to implement the Additional Protocol which cannot and must not be linked to the position of the Turkish Cypriot community;

Turkey does not enjoy normal relations with the Republic of Cyprus, an EU Member State. Turkey vetoes Cyprus’ membership of international organisations, including the OECD and the Wassenaar Agreement on the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and on Dual Use Goods.

Economic criteria
The unemployment rate is high at between 8% to 10%;

Barriers to market entry and exit still pertain, including the restrictions on foreign ownership in the areas of maritime transport, road transport, aviation, tourism, education, broadcasting, electricity, financial corporations and defence;

Low transparency regarding state aids stifles competition;

Average per capita income was just over 25% of the EU-25 average in 2005;

Inadequate judicial training leads to slow functioning of the commercial courts and difficulties in enforcement of court judgments;

Alignment of legislation
Technical barriers to trade are continuing;

Restrictions on free movement of workers and the right of establishment still exist;

Freedom to provide services is also restricted, including for example, nationality requirements for the professions of lawyers, doctors, dentists and midwives which are not in line with EU principles;

Major restrictions on the free movement of capital pertain including on acquisition of real estate by foreigners;

Anti-money laundering systems and enforcement mechanisms are woefully inadequate;

No progress on public procurement laws – bureaucratic obstacles to competition, including reduced opportunities for foreign bidders to apply for the award of public contracts;

Company law and corporate financial reporting not aligned with EU principles;

Although a Competition authority has been established, no state aid legislation has been adopted and Turkey must still ensure that financial relations between public authorities and public undertakings are transparent;

Freedom of expression is not yet guaranteed by the legal framework – defamation carries criminal sanctions including a prison sentence;

Severe restrictions on media exist, for example, limited TV and radio broadcasts in languages other than Turkish;

Very limited progress in the agriculture, food safety, veterinary, phytosanitary and fisheries policies;

Progress required on energy efficiency and the lack of independence of the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority must be addressed;

Taxation is not in line with EU principles and discriminatory policies regarding taxation of alcoholic and tobacco products must be abolished;

Turkish Central Bank is still not independent and legislation is needed to prohibit privileged access to financial institutions by public authorities;

Employment laws, including health and safety at work and anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunities laws all suffer from severe shortcomings and need to be aligned with EU policy;

Child labour has to be tackled head on;

25.6% of the population live below the poverty line increasing to 40% in rural areas;

Foreign security and defence policy is riddled with difficulties due to its intransigent stance on the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey continues to resist the inclusion of the Republic of Cyprus and Malta in the EU-NATO strategic cooperation based on the “Berlin Plus” agreement. Turkey also continues to block Cyprus’ membership in certain suppliers’ groups.

The border with Armenia remains closed;

Turkey still refuses to sign the statute of the International Criminal Court;

Turkey is encouraged to be “unequivocally committed to good neighbourly relations” in order to align itself with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy;

It is clear from the results of the progress report that in the main Turkey is still most definitely unfit to join the EU. There is no prospect of membership while fundamental human rights and freedoms remain unprotected.

In its report to the European Parliament on “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007”, the Commission emphasised the need for such conformity and stated as follows:

“Current negotiating frameworks provide for accession negotiations to be suspended in case of serious and persistent breach of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Increased attention to political reforms will improve the quality of the accession negotiations and stimulate the necessary reforms in the candidate countries.”

The resolution of the Cyprus issue is listed by the Commission as one of the challenges raised by the enlargement process of the EU for 2007.

"Achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue and the unification of the island remains an important challenge. The Commission welcomes the steps taken in 2006 by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities towards re-launching a process leading to a comprehensive settlement under UN auspices. These efforts need to be substantially stepped up in 2007. The Commission stands ready to support such efforts as it has in the past. The Council has adopted two of the three measures proposed by the Commission to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community. Free movement of Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as other EU citizens throughout the island has been ensured through the Green Line Regulation. The aid programme for the Turkish Cypriot community was adopted and is being implemented. The regulation on direct trade with the northern part of Cyprus proposed by the Commission remains to be adopted. Enhanced efforts and a spirit of compromise are needed to enable its speedy adoption."

However, it is clear from the Commission’s assessment that Turkey has a great deal to achieve in order to keep its accession negotiations on track. The conclusion is that:

"The EU expects Turkey to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement and the removal of all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on means of transport. Failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations. The Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the December European Council, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations. It is also essential that, as stated in the Accession Partnership, Turkey takes concrete steps for the normalisation of bilateral relations with all EU Member States as soon as possible."

Mr. Olli Rehn, Enlargement Commissioner for the EU reported on Turkey’s progress to the press
and stated that:

"I am often asked what is the best strategy for the EU to deal with Turkey? Simply, we should be both fair and firm. We should be fair and keep our commitment to give Turkey the chance to show whether it can meet the accession criteria. We should be firm and apply rigorous conditionality, which is the driver of reforms and modernisation towards a more European Turkey."

In view of the current climate and the comments made by the Commission, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that there is heightened awareness of the issues surrounding Turkey’s accession and that every effort is made to prevent direct trade with the occupied area until such time as we have a just solution to the Cyprus issue. We too must be “fair and firm”. We were firm in our resolve that no amount of political pressure would persuade us to vote in favour of an unjust and biased solution in the form of the Annan Plan. We were right to do so. Turkey has failed to keep its promises to the European Union and is jeopardising its route to accession by its failure to comply with EU harmonisation measures. How could we possibly expect it to fulfil its obligations under the Annan Plan? Turkey must show that it is willing to be a European citizen and comply with its EU and international law obligations – withdraw its troops from Cyprus and return the lands it has stolen. Once Turkey commits to a comprehensive and just resolution of the Cyprus issue, it will be free to pursue its ambitions in Europe and to make progress in rectifying its dismal record on human rights.