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TURKISH DAILY NEWS-October 8, 2002
2002-10-07 22:52:37

Opinion-By Mehmet Ali Birand
"Commission leaves the Turkey decision to the summit meeting
* Today the finishing touches will be put on the 'Progress Report' which will be published tomorrow. The report heaps praise on Turkey and lists the criteria which must be fulfilled completely. The task of determining the starting date of the accession talks, meanwhile, is being left to the Dec. 12 Copenhagen summit .

Today the European Union Commission puts the finishing touches on its "Progress Report" on 13 candidate countries, Turkey included. The report will be made public tomorrow in the afternoon.

The report is a detailed study of whether the 13 candidate countries have managed to adapt themselves to the Copenhagen criteria or not.

It consists of three sections:

* Adaptation to the political criteria
* Adaptation to the economic criteria
* Adaptation to the community's acquis, that is, to the entire body of laws and regulations passed by the EU to date.

Turkey has been devoted quite a large part in the report, that is, some 100 pages. Furthermore, there is the part in which the strategies to be conducted are given. Three pages of that part has been devoted to Turkey.

Heaping praise on Turkey

In the Commission report, the issue that hits the eye most is that the report reflects Turkey's efforts to adapt itself to the Copenhagen criteria and that, in general, these efforts are being supported.

The Commission report heaps praise on Turkey's attitude. It draws attention to the fact that all these efforts -- ranging from the death penalty to the mother tongue issue and from the economic reforms to the social steps -- have brought Turkey closer to the Copenhagen criteria.

It underlines with special emphasis how very important these efforts are from Turkey's standpoint. The giant steps taken for the sake of fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria in a country which has had to fight against terrorism all these years, are not being ignored. On the contrary, the report states that the space between the EU and Turkey, is getting smaller. When it is the turn of the 'shortcomings'...

The EU Commission's Progress Report also lists the areas in which Turkey still has certain shortcomings when it comes to fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria, citing examples. The most important of these are given below:

* TORTURE: The failure to fully prevent the practice of torture despite all the pledges made and despite the official ban, is one of the most striking findings in the report. The report draws attention to this issue, citing specific cases rather than merely making allegations. It points out that the practice of torture is yet to be brought to a stop. It says that there is the impression that in the torture cases the Turkish state wants the charges to be dropped due to the statute of limitations. As an example, it cites the case of the students in Manisa.

* FREEDOM OF THOUGHT: The report says that though certain arrangements required to remove the restrictions in that area have actually been introduced, some of the restrictions do continue to exist. It gives examples. One significant factor that hits the eye in the report is that persons who have not resorted to violence, have not encouraged violence, person who made speeches in which they have not tried to justify violence, are being given prison sentences. It points out that still there are thousands of prisoners of conscience in the prisons. In this context, the case of the former Democracy Party (DEP) deputies are given as an example along with some other cases. The report points out that this situation is not compatible with the Copenhagen criteria.

* FREEDOM OF FOUNDING ORGANIZATIONS AND THE FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY: The report says that these freedoms too are yet to materialize fully, that the obstacles in that area still continue. It gives examples. In this context, it refers to the fact that Turkey is yet to get rid of the bureaucratic restrictions involving the foundations of the minorities. It says that in this regard the EU criteria have not been met.

* FREEDOM OF RELIGION: The report says that in Turkey members of the religions other than the Sunni sect of Islam are not enjoying full liberty, that they cannot open up their own worshipping grounds. It refers to the clerical school in Istanbul as an example in this context.

* CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER THE MILITARY: The report says that in this area too no progress has been made. From the standpoint of Copenhagen criteria the composition and modus operandi of the National Security Council (MGK) is being seen inadequate.

* ECONOMIC CRITERIA: The section that involves the economic criteria too heaps praise on Turkey. Then it lists the shortcomings:

1. The state is still occupying too wide a space in the realm of the economy.

2. The weaknesses continue in the financial sector, especially in the banking sector.

3. The court decisions on economic issues have been inconsistent. Biggest problem crops up in implementation

The part of the EU Commission report that concerns Turkey is significant in that it underlines problems related to the practice.

It points out that Turkey is not properly implementing the bills it has passed with great courage.

It says that the prosecutors and the judges are bringing back the restrictions either by making use of certain legal loopholes they found in the new arrangements or by interpreting the new liberties introduced by the recently-passed amendments in a certain way, that is, by invoking certain "tricky clauses" in the Constitution and in the laws. In this context it refers to the fact that despite the amendment of the Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code, the restrictive practices have continued.

In this context, what arises is the need to have a judicial reform, the need for the prosecutors and the judges to alter their mentality and their approach, and the need to implement the Copenhagen criteria everywhere in the country and in all respects.

The report refers to issues such as the independence of the judiciary and to the inconsistencies in the judicial decisions, citing the Tayyip Erdogan case as an example. It also draws attention to the inconsistencies in the judicial decisions on economic issues, citing specific cases.

To sum up, the European Commission is complaining that though Turkey has made an effort to adapt itself to the Copenhagen criteria and has taken commendable steps in that direction, it has failed to display a similar eagerness and a similar consistency when it comes to implementing the new bills.

The difference between Turkey and the other candidates

The Progress Report provides a crystal clear answer which should be given to those who have been asking the question, "What is the difference between Turkey and the other candidates?"

The answer is that Turkey is clearly lagging behind the other candidate countries in areas such as torture, human rights and freedom of thought.

This is made all too clear and this should be upsetting all of us as Turkish citizens.

Another interesting point is that the report does not link at all Cyprus's full membership to Turkey's full membership or to a political solution to be found to the Cyprus problem. The report gives merely a technical assessment. Conclusion: Eliminate your shortcomings and let the leaders take the decision

In its Progress Report the European Commission adopts the following approach to how Turkey should maintain its bid for full membership:

* Turkey is proceeding on exactly the right track. This is commendable. It should continue taking steps in that direction and this should be supported by the EU.

* Further steps should be taken in order to comply fully with the Copenhagen criteria.

* Implementation must be on a wider basis and the developments must be closely monitored.

* The Customs Union must be expanded to cover the agricultural sector and the services sector as well.

* To support and facilitate Turkey's efforts, the financial assistance to Turkey should be doubled, raised to $300 million a year.

* The decision on how the relationship evolves, must be taken at the Copenhagen summit by the heads of state and government in line with the decision taken at the Sevilla summit. EU wants to see Cyprus and the election results

1. The EU Commission has determined that Turkey has not achieved full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria yet and decided that no date should be given for the start of the accession talks. Since a negative answer would cause a great disappointment in Turkey, it has decided to postpone the decision, sending the ball into the court of the EU leaders.

2. Before taking a decision on Turkey the European Commission wants to see the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. The picture that will arise from the election will indicate the extent to which the Copenhagen criteria will be implemented. Whether Motherland Party (ANAP) clears the election threshold will affect the EU decision as well as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) position and the majority vote to be obtained by Justice and Development Party (AKP).

3. Cyprus is another issue that will affect the EU decision. The EU Commission sees that the decision on Turkey will be indirectly linked to potential developments in Cyprus. Therefore, it has decided to wait until the Dec. 12 Copenhagen summit.

To sum up, the EU Commission has opted for gaining time, leaving to the EU member countries leaders the decision on whether to give Turkey a date or not."

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