EU lawmakers call on Turkey to accelerate reforms

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In a draft resolution widely regarded as the forerunner of the Commission’s upcoming progress report on Turkey, MEPs yesterday welcomed the Turkish government’s renewed commitment to reform following recent elections, but said that it still had “a lot of homework to do”.

Adopted unanimously on 3 October by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, a draft resolution on EU-Turkey relations “welcomes the election of the new President (Abdullah Gül) as a sign of the strength of Turkish democracy” and praises “the commitment of the new government to enhance the reform process”. 

The resolution is widely considered to be a precursor to the Commission’s annual progress report on Turkey, scheduled for publication on 7 November. MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP-ED), the resolution’s author, said that Parliament wants to “widen the scope of the Commission’s report”, particularly to strengthen social cohesion and energy cooperation. 

In a separate development on the same day, President Gül told the Council of Europe that Turkey is committed to “the highest standards” of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and outlined reforms designed to improve gender equality, ban discrimination, ensure freedom of expression, and improve cultural and religious rights. 

MEPs welcomed the intention of the government to adopt a new civilian constitution which “would protect fundamental human rights and freedoms”, and supported the recent opening of negotiations on the energy chapter. 

However, their resolution strongly underlined “the urgent need to efficiently combat all types of extremism and violence”, stressing the importance of ensuring “full and effective civilian control of the military”. It also called for more parliamentary supervision of the police and secret services, and said that freedom of expression and the press should be the “number one priority of the government” 

The resolution called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus to “facilitate the negotiation of a settlement”. 

On the Kurdish issue, it pushes for a political initiative targeting “a lasting settlement” and the introduction of a Commission-backed “comprehensive strategy” for the socio-economic development of the south-east. 

Meanwhile, MEPs called on the Commission to provide “targeted support to civil society” across the country, and report on the effectiveness of financial support for the Turkish Cypriot community. 

Oomen-Ruijten said that Parliament’s broad support for the resolution gives “a strong signal” to Turkey and the Commission ahead of the November date. 

Shadow rapporteur Alexander Graff Lambsdorff (FDP-ALDE) said that “it is of vital importance for Turkey to continue the reform process”. 

The Commission and Council are set to make statements on EU-Turkey relations to Parliament during its plenary on 24 October. 

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