Turkey Not Yet Ready for European Union

STRASBOURG (Reuters)–Turkey does not yet meet the political standards for European Union membership–the European Parliament concluded on Thursday–just months before the Union is due to decide whether to start accession talks.

Deputies voted by 211 to 84 to adopt a report on Ankara’s progress toward accession which states starkly: "Turkey does not yet meet the Copenhagen political criteria"–a reference to EU standards on democracy–human rights–and the rule of law.

EU governmen’s are to decide in December whether to open formal accession negotiations with Ankara on the basis of a recommendation by the executive European Commission.

Parliament will give its opinion on the Commission’s report–but it is not legally binding. The EU legislature must ratify the outcome of the accession talks–which could take up to a decade.

The report–written by Dutch Christian Democrat Arie Oostlander–said the strongly pro-European government of Tayyip Erdogan had made many courageous steps in the face of strong resistance toward political and economic reform–but itemized a great deal of policy areas where more progress was needed.

"The European parliament notes that torture practices and mistreatment still continue but regrets the fact that little progress has been made in bringing torturers to justice," it said.

It cited political persecution which in some cases amounted to banning of political parties–intimidation of human rights campaigners–and a lack of gender equality in a society where it said violence against women was widespread.

The report was also highly critical of Ankara’s restriction of freedom of expression and its treatment of religious–ethnic–and linguistic minorities–with special reference to Turkey’s large Kurdish population.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen urged the assembly "not to pull the rug from under the reform process in Turkey," saying it was in the EU’s interest to have a democratic Turkey which respected the rule of law.

He also explicitly praised Turkey’s "very cooperative and constructive role" in talks aimed at a peace settlement reuniting the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

But he said Ankara needed to implement a critical mass of reform by the end of the year so the EU could clearly feel the reform process was credible and sustainable.

"If that’s not the case we simply can’t reach the conclusion that the political criteria have been fulfilled," he said.

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