Turkey Long Way From EU Membership Because of Human Rights Says Finland

TURKU–Finland–(Reuters)–Finland said on Friday Turkey still had a long way to go to meet European Union human rights standards even if it was accepted as a candidate to join the 15-nation bloc.

Finnish Justice Minister Johannes Koskinen–whose country holds the rotating six-month EU presidency–said the human rights of Turkey’s Kurdish minority were not being respected.

"Turkey in no way fulfills democracy and fundamental rights in this area," he told a news conference after a two-day meeting of EU justice and interior ministers.

Recently improved relations between the EU and Turkey have given rise to expectations that it will be included among applicants for membership at a summit in Helsinki in December.

Finnish Interior Minister Kari Hakamies also said applicant countries were responsible for ensuring the human rights of minorities were not violated by groups such as skinheads.

"The European Union cannot have member states with such human rights problems that people have to make their way into other countries," he said.

In the summer Finland received an influx of gypsies from EU hopeful Slovakia claiming asylum and this week 30 gypsies from applicant Poland came to the country via Sweden.

Turkey must meet all the European Union’s entry rules before it can be considered for membership–Guenter Verheugen–EU Commissioner responsible for enlargement–said on Friday.

"Nobody can say at this moment in time if we will reach the point with Turkey in the next five years where we can talk about membership," former German deputy foreign minister Verheugen told a German radio station.

The conditions for starting talks about Turkey joining the 15-nation bloc had not yet been fulfilled–Verheugen said.

Turkey’s application to join the EU was blocked two years ago because of its human rights record and long-running dispute with Greece over the island of Cyprus.

Verheugen said his job as commissioner examining the efforts of countries to join the EU was not to put hurdles in their way but to help them. "But that doesn’t mean avoiding the difficulties," he said.

The EU’s attitude to Turkey’s request for membership has softened since last month’s devastating earthquake there–which killed more than 14,000 people. A smaller earthquake in Greece has led to a tentative thaw in its relations with Turkey.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday called for the EU to look kindly on Turkey’s membership hopes–warning the country might otherwise turn away from the bloc for good.

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