||European Parliament elections 1999
Important points 1994-1999
Turkey - striking the right balance
Parliament's position on the EU-Turkey relationship is that the EU must adopt a positive stance towards Turkey while not overlooking human rights concerns and other problems.
Many ties bind the two sides together, including Turkey's strategic position in an area of political turbulence, its links with the EU through an association agreement and a customs union, the volume of trade between the two sides and the large numbers of Turkish immigrants in the Union. On the other hand, certain problems cannot be overlooked, such as the frequent accusations of human rights infringements, the fate of the Turkish Kurds, the territorial disputes with Greece in the Aegean Sea, Turkey's involvement in the Cyprus issue and its border problems with Iraq and Syria. All this makes the EU's relations with Turkey a highly complex business.
Parliament certainly recognises Turkey's eligibility to join the Union one day but says the EU will have to ensure it meets all the conditions of membership.
The EU-Turkey customs union received Parliament's go-ahead on 13 December 1995. The vote, following debates lasting several months in the Foreign Affairs Committee, was 343 in favour, 149 against and 36 abstentions. However, this vote was accompanied by a clear message to Turkey on the need to respect human rights. Parliament gave its approval partly because, just before the vote, the Turkish Government undertook to push ahead with democratic reforms. However, Parliament wanted to be sure the momentum was kept up and therefore asked the Commission to draw up an annual report on human rights in Turkey, including the position of the Kurds, a problem Parliament believes can only be resolved by peaceful means.
A keen eye will also be kept on the financial side. A Commission-Parliament interinstitutional working party has been set up to oversee projects carried out under the MEDA programme (the Euromediterranean partnership). Parliament wants to be sure that projects funded by the programme promote democracy, human rights and civil society. For the same reason it has not yet released the funds earmarked for technical and financial cooperation following the establishment of the customs union ( 150m for the years 1999-2000-2001).
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