Oostlander Caves in to Turkish Pressure

DRAFT REPORT TO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE ON TURKEY’S ACCESSION CRITERIA TO EU AVOIDS GETTING MESSY–SIDESTEPS KEY ISSUES

BRUSSELS–A draft report detailing Turkey’s progress in gaining accession into the EU–though accepting the country’s several shortcomings–fails to call on Turkey to implement reforms–and excludes Turkey’s systematic campaign of denial of the Armenian Genocide–so as to assuage "Turkish sensitivities," the European Armenian Federation reports.

"Turkey’s Progress Towards Accession into the EU," was submitted to The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 19 by its author–Parliament Member Arie Oostlander (PPE–Netherlands).

Oostlander states in the document that–in spite of "the determination of the government–Turkey does not yet meet the Copenhagen political criteria," specifically noting that Turkey has retained a Constitution adopted in 1982 during the military regime–"reflecting a largely authoritarian philosophy."

Political criteria for accession–the report notes–can only be met through more rigorous application of reforms. The report also criticizes the European Commission for its reticence to admonish Turkey for its failure to take substantive action in this regard.

Similar to last year’s report–Oostlander asserts that Turkey clearly violates various sections of the Copenhagen criteria–and includes specific concerns about the structure of the State–the principles of the rule of law and democracy–issues on protection of minority and human rights–and foreign affairs issues. The rapporteur–nevertheless–refrains from citing specific suggestions to address these issue–and includes vague calls or invitations for action–instead.

The report includes a new chapter "Reforms in the EU," in which Oostlander argues–"The EU itself must be prepared for Turkey’s possible accession," calling on the Commission–"to inform the Parliament and the Council of what internal changes will be needed in the EU in order for it to function effectively."

Stressing that–with the possibility of new EU external borders–the EU should develop a common security and defense policy–Oostlander asserts that in the fight against terrorism the EU is not sufficiently supportive of Turkey.

The draft report fails to mention Turkey’s aggressive denial of the Armenian Genocide–and its policy of discrimination and oppression against the Armenian minority. The report includes mild criticism of Turkey’s policy saying it–"significantly restricts the scope of the rights of ethnic–religious and linguistic minorities to pursue their culture–practice their own religion or use their own language."

Oostlander maintains that Turkey holds a contrary interpretation of the concept of the secular state than that prevailing in the EU–and that Turkey practices "state control over national religion and discrimination against other faiths," and calls on the Turkish authorities "to put an immediate end to all activities discriminating against and creating difficulties for religious minorities."

The Explanatory Statement accompanying the draft report calls the Armenian question a "very delicate" point–and of great interest to the European Parliament–but notes–"the resolution–nevertheless–only raises this point in a low profile way–bearing in mind Turkish sensitivities."

This section–which will not be up for a vote by the Committee–states that Turkish authorities recently provoked anger by inserting biased educational materials in its curriculum. "A warning has to be given by the European Parliament on the issue," says Oostlander–and asks "Why should Turkey waste its existing popular support in the EU?"

"We are very concerned that the draft resolution does not take into consideration Turkey’s official and ongoing campaign of Genocide denial–relegating the topic to the Explanatory Statement section. Mr. Oostlander mocks the strong tradition of ethics the European Union was founded on when reducing the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s denial of this crime to inconsequential concerns," asserts Director of the European Armenian Federation Laurent Leylekian.

"If the Parliament would like to send a word of warning to Turkey on this issue–why relegate it to the Explanatory Statement and not include it in the draft resolution? We call on the European Parliament members to take Mr. Oostlander at his word–and admonish Turkey within the text of the resolution–added Leylekian.

In the foreign relations section of the draft report–the resolution does not explicitly mention the Turkish blockade of Armenia. It does–however–encourage the Turkish government "to pursue the course it has adopted with a view to playing a constructive role in the region–and invites "Turkey to reopen the borders with Armenia–to restore relations and not to take any action that would stand in the way of a historic reconciliation."

"Just as in the case of the occupation of Cyprus–the European Union has finally realized that it will be indirectly complicit in the blockade of Armenia with Turkey’s accession to the body. It goes against all European Union policies–including the ‘Wider Europe Neighborhood’ initiative. It is now clear to all involved that full EU membership is not the answer for Turkey–but rather the establishment of a privileged association or partnership," concluded Leylekian.

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