European Parliament adopts report on Turkey
by Constantina Dimitroulli
Strasbourg, Dec 15 (CNA) -- The European Parliament adopted by majority vote here today, in a secret ballot, a report on Turkey's progress towards European Union accession.
The report, compiled by Dutch Euro MP De Heer Camiel Eurlings, of the European People's Party, was adopted by 407 votes in favour, 262 against and 29 abstentions and says that Turkey has to recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
The Parliament calls on the Council ''to deliver on promises and put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community; expects the quick adoption of the relevant packages on economic aid and direct trade with the northern part of the island.''
It said that the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey implies obviously the recognition of Cyprus by Ankara and invites the Turkish authorities to abolish all existing restrictions applying to ships flying the Cypriot flag and involved in trade concerning an EU member state.
The Parliament acknowledged that problems continue to exist in Turkey, such as regarding minority rights, religious freedoms, trade union rights, women's rights, the role of the army, Cyprus, whose northern areas are occupied by Turkish troops and whom Ankara does not recognise, and relations with Armenia.
The report stressed that, in the first phase of negotiations, priority should be given to the full application of the political criteria and said that in case of serious breaches of the political criteria, negotiations must be suspended.
MEPs also stressed that starting negotiations will not automatically result in Turkey's accession and that appropriate ways will have to be found ''to ensure that Turkey remains fully anchored in European structures'', should negotiations not be successfully concluded.
Furthermore, MEPs were satisfied that Turkey had fulfilled a number of recommendations and requirements included in earlier European Parliament resolutions, such as the abolition of the death penalty, the extension of important fundamental rights and freedoms, reduction of the role of the National Security Council and the lifting of the state of emergency in the southeast.
However they said that Turkey still had to adopt further reforms and put these, as well as current reforms, into practice, including lifting all remaining restrictions on broadcasting and education in minority languages, putting an end to the discrimination of religious minorities, completely eradicating torture and drafting a new constitution.
Turkey has to limit the role of the army further, continue the process of reconciliation with Armenia and recognise the Republic of Cyprus, it said.
MEPs also mentioned the eradication of violence against women, freedom of expression and press freedom as issues they would monitor closely.
The Parliament also referred to earlier conclusions of EU leaders that ''the Union's capacity to absorb new members while maintaining the momentum of European integration constitutes an important criterion for accession, from the point of view both of the Union and of candidates for accession.''
It also noted that Turkey could only become a member after the EU's long-term budget planning for the period from 2014 onwards has been decided upon.
The Parliament turned down a proposed amendment to the report saying that it rejected the full accession of Turkey to the EU.
It also rejected an amendment calling on the Commission and the Council to prepare an alternative objective for a preferential partnership with Ankara.