European Parliament Debates Report on Turkey; Findings Harshest to Date

BRUSSELS–The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Tuesday held its first debate over a draft report on Turkey, containing serious warnings for a Turkish government that has lost its ambition for political reform, reported the European Armenian Federation.

Authored by Dutch Christian Democrat parliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the report was presented at the tail end of the committee meeting in the presence of a handful of Turkish journalists and Parliamentarians supporting Turkey’s accession.

Reading the report, Oomen-Ruijen, highlighted the parliament’s concern over the continued slowdown in Turkey’s reform process, warning that Ankara’s failure to fulfill its commitmen’s to the European Parliament “by December 2009 will further seriously affect the process of negotiations” for Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

In discussing Turkey’s relations with Armenia, the report welcomed the recent rapprochement between the two countries, describing as “hopeful” the European Parliament’s expectations that the September meeting between the Turkish and Armenian presidents “will indeed foster a climate favorable to the normalization of relations between their countries.”

It also called on the Turkish government to immediately “reopen its border with Armenia and restore full economic and political relations.”

The report said the European Commission can facilitate in the reconciliation process but sidesteps the core issue of the Armenian Genocide, calling instead for the Armenian and Turkish governmen’s to start the reconciliation process by allowing for “an open and frank discussion of past events.”

According to the European Armenian Federation, the draft report differs from previous ones issued regarding Turkey’s democratic progress. The message to Ankara in this report is of “concern” and regret,” while the issues of EU accession is scantly mentioned.

“Unlike previous reports, this one is now pointing out Turkey’s shortcomings rather than excusing them, said the European Armenian Federation’s Executive Director Laurent Leylekian. “In light of Ankara countless failed pledges, this report gives ground to the credibility of the EU’s political approach.”

Highlighting Turkey’s dismal human rights record, the report called for a repeal of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, describing as “not sufficient” the cosmetic reforms to the notorious law criminalizing “insults to Turkishness.”

“Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are still not fully protected in Turkey,” the report said, noting “the extent of which draws Turkey away from standards of a democratic, pluralistic society.”

The report also highlights the plight of Turkey’s minorities, which continue to face “hostility and violence” because “Turkey has made no progress on ensuring cultural diversity and promoting respect for, and protection of, minorities”

The inclusion of these facts is very important, Leylekian said, especially now, “as Turkey currently threatens even Europeans in Europe, such as columnists Alberto Rosselli, Dogan Ozguden or professor Ronald Monsch, who dare mention the Kurdish issue or the Armenian genocide.”

Despite that, the report continues to include complicit language regarding the Armenian Genocide, Lelekian said, explaining the European Parliament’s treatment of the Genocide as a crime with victims on both sides. “We regret this outmoded attitude through which Turkey is encouraged to continue its denial policy.”

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