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Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 September 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition

12. Economic and social development of Turkey

  President. – The next item is the recommendation for second reading by Mr Morillon (A5-0206/2000) on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, on the common position adopted by the Council with a view to the adoption of a European Parliament and Council regulation regarding the implementation of the measures to promote economic and social development in Turkey [7492/1/2000 REV – C5-0325/2000 – 1998/0300(COD)].


  Morillon (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (FR) Mr President, the Council common position whose aim you have just stated has been referred back to Parliament for a second reading, not because of its content, but because of its form. This could seem ridiculous, but it is not at all.

With regard to content, Parliament has agreed to commit EUR 135 million over the next five years to measures aiming to compensate Turkey for the sacrifices it has agreed to make in order to enter into a customs union with the European Union, and on this point there is no divergence with the Council.

With regard to form, we wanted to specify a number of areas in which the corresponding measures should be agreed as a priority, and the Council did not want to accept three of our proposals regarding the wording of a precautionary principle on the development of nuclear energy, in particular in earthquake zones. The protection and recognition of the cultural identity of minorities and support for measures seeking to abolish capital punishment and, finally, perhaps most importantly, the development of any form of cooperation seeking to resolve the Kurdish problem.

I say that these matters of form are not trivial in a debate that precedes the one which is due to take place on accession in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy in October, and following which, in November, I shall have to present the report on the state of progress of the work and any changes in attitudes within the European Union and Turkey.

Since the way to accession was reopened in Helsinki, nobody has been able to say where this newly-cleared path will lead, nor how long it will take to reach the end. I think I can say that there is a broad consensus for granting Turkey a privileged position for geographical, historical, economic and political reasons, but I would also say that this privileged position can and must be envisaged within the European Union itself just as much as in close cooperation with the Union. I say that this choice belongs, by democratic right, to the citizens of the European Union whom we represent here, and to the Turkish citizens themselves. I understand that this was probably your opinion, Commissioner Verheugen, and I think I can guarantee you the support of a large majority of my colleagues in this area.

The decision on Turkey’s accession is too important for the future of the European Union and Turkey for it to be made in veiled silence, or even in secrecy, behind closed doors. Long debates will be necessary, both here and in national parliaments, which is why everyone agrees that the road will be long and hard. As rapporteur on enlargement, I was convinced of this, not only by the richness and passion of the debates that have already taken place in Parliament, but also by observing the reactions in Turkey itself, both in government circles and in civil society.

I shall come back to these contrasting reactions in detail when I present my report. Today, I shall simply come to the main conclusion. The people of Turkey consider that entry into the European Union will require not only a painless revision of their legal arsenal and the partial loss of their sovereignty, to which they remain attached, but also a radical change in their habits and mentality, for which they do not seem prepared. This is why Parliament has proposed the creation of a Euro-Turkish forum, bringing together qualified representatives of the Turkish community and those Members of the European Parliament that have been given the task, for in-depth discussions. I shall repeat this proposal in my report and I think I can say that the Turkish Government is not hostile to this, but quite the opposite, it would seem.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, at the beginning of this long road, aware of the realities, I think the time has come to leave hypocrisy behind and not to continue to ignore the most important obstacles, including the Kurdish problem. It would not occur to the French today to deny that a Corsican problem exists, even if the French citizens and their government are divided on the solutions. There is a Kurdish problem in Turkey. The Council must not forbid the European Parliament to propose its contribution to the solution. If the text of this regulation is referred back for a second reading, it is not purely for a matter of form, but because Parliament refuses to accept this kind of political sleight of hand.


  Ζacharakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I wholeheartedly concur with Mr Morillon’s suggestion that we abandon the hypocrisy with which we sometimes deal with certain real problems for reasons of political or other expediency. There can, in my opinion, be no doubt that the issues covered in the three amendments rejected by the Council are real issues and that the Council position, or the sub-text at least, indicates a hypocritical disposition to sweep them to one side or underestimate their importance.

And yet, these three amendments, which reflect the firm views of the European Parliament, are all of fundamental importance and the rapporteur is right to insist that they be adopted: they contain a safeguard against the Turkish authorities’ constructing nuclear power stations in earthquake zones, an express reference to the death penalty and a clear indication of Turkey’s obligation to recognise and protect the cultural identity of minorities, within the wider context of its obligation to respect the rule of law and human rights, and they highlight the undisputed Kurdish problem and the need to resolve it – but not, of course, by dropping Turkish bombs on civilians, as in the most recent bombings in the Kendakor region on 18 August.

I should like to hope that Parliament’s insistence on certain points being adopted will also help the Turkish side to understand, even if – as Mr Morillon rightly comments – it appears to be somewhat unwilling to understand, that the road towards Europe is not a one-way street of determination and patient understanding on the part of the European Union in the face of Turkey’s so-called special circumstances; it requires the same measure of determination on the part of the Turkish authorities and Turkish society to adjust to the rules of law and ethics which govern the European Union and which apply indiscriminately to all candidate countries; rules which, unfortunately, continue to be violated by Turkey, not only when it comes to the Kurdish problem and its democratic shortcomings, but also in numerous other cases, such as the Cyprus question and Greek-Turkish relations.

A real sea change in Turkey’s behaviour and attitude would go some way towards encouraging all those who, in a spirit of perhaps excessive optimism, opted to speed up Turkey’s advance towards Europe and would help to shorten the long and difficult road – to quote Mr Morillon once again – of Turkey’s admission to the European family.


  Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like first of all to thank Mr Morillon very sincerely for the good work he has done and for his persistence in pushing through the demands and the most important amendments. I am able to support him on behalf of my group, and I believe it must be possible to reach an agreement with the Council. We are keen to use this instrument to promote economic and social development in Turkey. Naturally, we hope that, parallel to this – and perhaps even as a result of it – political development in Turkey towards democracy and respect for human rights, in particular respect for its own Kurdish population, will also be strengthened, and the death penalty abolished.

However – and I have to say this again and again in this Chamber, and I also say it in Turkey– we are very dissatisfied with the pace of political development. We could of course say that it is not our problem, and the fact that it is not prepared to make progress in this area more obvious and is not creating the political institutions for doing so is indeed Turkey’s own biggest problem.

Not so long ago, Turkey elected a new State President – a judge, and a highly respected one at that, and in fact with the support of the government. And what does the government do as one of its first acts? Over the summer, it sends its new State President a kind of emergency decree with a view to restricting some of the rights of people in government service. Then it wonders why, as a former high court judge, the President rejects the decrees he has been sent and says that the matter in question is one which Parliament must deal with, as is in fact fully to be expected in a democracy.

Now, I have as little sympathy for Islamic militants as many others in this House, especially when they adopt the fundamentalist approach much in evidence in these regions and also manifested today in the debate between the Presidents of the Israeli and Palestinian Parliaments. The issue in question is one which has to be settled on a legal basis. It is just not on, using an emergency decree suddenly to remove all Islamic fundamentalists from office, as the government wants to do. Is there really a problem here? Then it is one for Parliament to deal with.

The Kurdish problem has already been mentioned. In that area too, scarcely any progress has been made. Again and again, we see first positive, then negative signs. Those who know that this is a crucial problem lack the courage to do anything about it. You mentioned the Corsican problem. I have to say that, in France too, the necessary courage is called for to tackle the problem after so many years. I should like to see just a little of this courage in Turkey with a view to finding a real solution to the Kurdish problem too. Of course, there are also other problems involving minorities.

The death penalty was mentioned. How many times have we heard the conviction voiced that it must be abolished, and how long will it be before the relevant steps are taken? The fact that Turkey is not taking these steps is something which cannot but disappoint those in this House – and I count myself among them – who would dearly like to see Turkey become a member of the European Union. I nonetheless believe that, if we persist, we shall achieve what we have pledged. Our pledges can, and will be, fulfilled, and precisely on the issue of promoting economic and social development. We are now waiting with bated breath to see whether Turkey will push ahead with political development on its own initiative.


  Haarder (ELDR).(DA) Mr President, our relations with Turkey should promote democracy, stability and consistency. The path to those goals is partly by way of social and economic development, and the way to social and economic development is partly by means of foreign investment. The Union’s finance package will be an incentive to further investment in Turkey and, in the process, will also promote and consolidate democracy and human rights. We have seen this strategy succeed in former dictatorships in Southern Europe, we shall see it work in Eastern and Central Europe, and it ought also to work in Turkey. Parliament should support this strategy, and we should, at the same time, insist that, before there can be any question at all about membership negotiations, the Copenhagen criteria should be met as these relate to democracy and human rights. Finally, I would emphasise the need to rebuild the thousands of Kurdish villages razed to the ground. This ought to be an express priority in our policy on Turkey, and we must insist that the Turkish Government too make it a high priority. In the same way, we must insist that the rights of the Kurdish minority are respected, just as the rights of minorities are respected in the countries of the Union and in the other candidate States.


  Ceyhun (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, on behalf of my group, I should like to thank the rapporteur for his recommendation for second reading. He is very familiar with the situation in Turkey. He is aware of the problems of this country and of the people who live there. It is no secret that Turkey cannot be democratic in our sense of the word until such time as the economic and social problems there have been solved. It is also widely appreciated that Turkey will not be able to get on top of these problems alone and without our aid.

The demands contained in the rapporteur’s amendments – he talks of the protection of minorities, rightly demands the abolition of the death penalty and calls for a solution to the Kurdish problem – are in no way conditions designed to stand in the way of aid. Instead, they are valuable proposals for the necessary democratic reforms in Turkey. At the very end of the day, Turkey will benefit from these reforms being put into practice. To that extent, we support the rapporteur’s recommendation and thank him again for the work he has done.


  Κorakas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, just nine months – or perhaps I should say already nine months – have passed since the Helsinki resolution granting Turkey candidate status. At the time, we predicted that this resolution would not help, as many maintained, to bring about democratisation and improved living conditions for the Turkish people and that it would only encourage the regime to exercise ever greater oppression. Nine months later, we are sorry to say that we were right because, to tell the truth, we would have preferred to have been proven wrong.

Now the Council has proposed releasing EUR 135 million for the economic and social development of Turkey. We fear that a substantial proportion of this sum will be used, despite any controls carried out, to strengthen the machinery of oppression.

Allow me to give you some facts and figures. As we all know, despite promises made from time to time, the constitution is still seriously undemocratic, the death penalty remains, Turkish jails currently house over 15,000 political prisoners in inhumane conditions, which are now being modernised with the introduction of solitary confinement, provoking outrage in Turkey, including in the Law Society of Istanbul, which has issued a special paper condemning these measures. There were arrests recently during events for world peace day on 1 September, Cyprus continues to be occupied and, as we are preparing to release funds, Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit has said that the Cyprus question was resolved in 1974, i.e. with the barbaric invasion and continuing occupation, demonstrating his disdain for UN resolutions. And, I would add, Mr Gem says the same about Greek-Turkish relations. Some people would do well not to boast and brag because these Greek-Turkish relations constantly result in the Greek Government’s backing down and that in itself is a source of further tension.

So do you want to use this money as bait so that you can penetrate the Turkish economy even further, so that you can plunder the Turkish people’s wealth even more? We do not intend to say give it or withhold it, we simply want to point out the conditions under which and the reason why this money is being given.


  Souladakis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, I fully support Mr Morillon’s excellent work, as presented by him and supplemented by Mr Swoboda. I do not therefore intend to repeat arguments which I accept overall. However, I should like to make a few comments.

The strange nature of relations between the European Union and Turkey, which we have experienced for many years, from the beginning and throughout, is due to the political problem which we call Turkey. Thus, 9-10 months ago, Helsinki set a procedure in motion, essentially with an eye to resolving the problem which we call Turkey. In this sense, and because Commissioner Verheugen, the Commissioner responsible for enlargement, is here with us, and given that there is a whole atmosphere surrounding the text which will shape the partnership between the European Union and Turkey, a text which we shall receive at a later date, I am certain that he will advocate incorporating everything included in the Helsinki resolutions on human rights, on Cyprus, on the Aegean and on crises in the text of the Treaty rather than in the preamble.

Take a look at Turkey. It is a law unto itself. It radiates crisis on every side. Those of us who live in the region are sick and tired of crises. It is because of its political system that Turkey radiates these crises. We recently heard statements by Turkish-Cypriots in Cyprus, who have at last come forward and condemned Turkey as an occupying force. Only yesterday on the BBC I heard the head of a party of Turkish-Cypriots – Turkish-Cypriots, not settlers – half of whom have remained in Cyprus, appealing to the Turks to let them join the European Union. Turkey wanted to join and he felt that it should let them join earlier.

In this sense, given that these relations gamble with the political face of Europe and with Europe’s prospects and principles, I am certain that Commissioner Verheugen will want to assure us that the Commission, as the guardian of these principles, intends to base the integration process for Turkey firmly on these principles. And I think that the main issue is precisely this process and this road. Because I do not think, Mr Verheugen, that we can all agree to vote for parliaments, to vote for governments, on the one hand, and yet still have military rule dictating political terms on behalf of us all on the other. From this viewpoint, the Morillon proposal is an encouraging prospect. We, as Greeks, want Turkey in the European Union, we want a democratic Turkey, because a democratic Turkey will be the beginning of the end of crises in the region as a whole, crises which we have lived with for many, many years and from which none of us has profited.


  Verheugen, Commission.(DE) Mr President, first of all, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Morillon, most sincerely for his most thorough report. I am glad that we have been able to achieve far-reaching agreement. I am also pleased that Parliament has responded very quickly to the common position unanimously adopted in the Council. Above all, I am glad that Parliament is able to accept far and away the greater part of this position, as proposed by the Commission.

The report now proposes adding three points to the draft regulation. I am able to tell you that the Commission shares Parliament’s view on these points. The Commission will therefore examine the relevant amendments proposed by the European Parliament, inform the Council as soon as possible of its position and ask it to conclude the legislative procedure.

A special importance attaches to this draft regulation for it constitutes the last of the three pillars of financial aid for Turkey, the others being the measures in favour of Turkey in the framework of the MEDA programme and the regulation issued by the Council in April. All these financial resources are designed to support implementation of the pre-accession strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to equip Turkey for entering into negotiations. That will only come about when basic political, economic and social reforms have been implemented.

Improvements in relations between the Union and Turkey following the European Council, meeting in Helsinki, have enabled us to speak openly and frankly with each other on all issues. The strengthened political dialogue at all levels characteristic of the climate following Helsinki has made a decisive contribution to this state of affairs. I also have to say that open and frank discussions which sometimes address painful themes and touch upon sensitive issues are indispensable if we want to travel all the way down the path which lies before us.

I should like to take the opportunity to re-emphasise that we await a firm commitment on the part of Turkey to continuing with the process of reform that has been begun. A few weeks ago, Turkey signed both UN conventions on civil and political rights and on economic and social rights. I believe that this is of a piece with the decision we made last year and may be regarded as a successful outcome. I welcome Turkey’s signature of these documents as an important step in the right direction. However, I should also like to emphasise that it is now a question of both conventions quickly being ratified by the Turkish Parliament and of the commitments contained in these also being put into practice.

On my last visit to Turkey in July, I was informed in detail of an inter-ministerial commission’s report, then before the government, on the reforms needed if the Copenhagen criteria are to be fulfilled. The report contains a host of proposed reforms for improving the human rights situation. However, it is now a question of the Turkish Government’s putting the proposed reforms into effect within the framework of a consistent legislative programme. I also expressly insisted upon this in the course of the discussions in Turkey.

As you know, the European Council, meeting in Helsinki, has confirmed that it is essential for Turkey firstly to comply with the political accession criteria if its relations with the European Union are to become any closer. This will also be the theme in preparing the Accession Partnership which the Commission is to submit in the autumn of this year on the instructions of the Council.


  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

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