EU Says Turkey Must Do More on Rights

ANKARA (Reuters)–The European Union welcomed Turkish steps towards expanding civil liberities on Tuesday–but said in its progress report on candidates that the reforms far from guarantee freedoms required for membership in the bloc.

The EU also said Ankara must rein in soaring inflation that reached more than 80 percent in October wholesale prices. It also urged Turkey to push forward with structural reforms in banking–agriculture and state-run monopolies.

"These documen’s present a clear truth," said deputy prime minister Mesut Yilmaz–who oversees relations with the EU.

"While Turkey has taken important steps to EU harmonization–particularly with the constitutional reforms–it has still not been able to fully meet the Copenhagen political criteria," he told a news conference.

The bloc–which made Turkey a candidate for membership in late 1999–said in its annual enlargement report that constitutional amendmen’s passed in October were a "significant step towards strengthening guarantees in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms and limiting capital punishment."

But the changes to the national charter did not completely abolish the death penalty as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights–and Turkey still restricted fundamental freedoms–including linguistic and cultural rights for the country’s 12 million ethnic Kurds–the report said.

The EU said Ankara had not gone far enough to resolve the impasse on Cyprus–where Turkey has maintained 30,000 troops in a self-styled Turkish Cypriot statelet since invading in 1974.

"Turkish representatives expressed their support for the (UN) Secretary General’s (negotiation) efforts. But EU representatives indicated their disappointment these expressions of support have not been followed by concrete actions to facilitate a settlement of the Cyprus problem," the report said.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said last week Turkey could "annex" the Turkish-held north of Cyprus if the EU makes the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government a candidate before a political settlement is reached.

Annexation could wreck Turkey’s decades-long wish to join the European Union.

Yilmaz said the EU must show flexibility on Cyprus and on another sticking point in Turkey-EU relations–the EU defense initiative. NATO ally Turkey has objected to the proposed European force’s use of the alliance’s assets unless Ankara is allowed a decision-making role.

"A solution for these problems should not only be expected from Turkey alone. The EU must also display an approach on both issues that would ease and encourage solutions," he said.

"Turkey has adopted–and has been implementing–an ambitious economic reform program that addresses better than its predecessor the risks and vulnerabilities of the domestic financial sector and seeks to reduce government intervention in many areas of the economy," the EU said.

Turkey–backed by $19 billion in International Monetary Fund loans–has pledged macroeconomic reforms since back-to-back crises scuppered a previous IMF anti-inflation pact. The value of its lira has been slashed by more than half.

The crisis has halted Turkey’s steps towards a functioning market economy. "Considerable parts of its economy are however already competing in the EU market under the framework of the customs union with EU," the report said. Swift progress had been made in legislating crucial economic reforms.

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