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President of EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dimitrij Rupel, chairs EU-Turkey Association Council

Photo: Tina Kosec/BOBO

The current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, chaired the EU-Turkey Association Council in Brussels today. The Turkish delegation was headed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

At the beginning of the meeting, Dr Rupel highlighted the progress Turkey had made in negotiations for EU membership, in which it has opened six chapters and temporarily closed another. The Slovenian Presidency will make every effort to ensure further chapters are opened at the Accession Conference in June. "The state of negotiations will depend in particular on Turkey's progress in terms of fulfilling the conditions laid down in the negotiating framework," said the Slovenian Foreign Minister. He also noted that the conduct of the parliamentary elections in June 2007 had been fully compliant with democratic standards and the principles of the rule of law, and added that the high voter turnout and the broad representativity of the new parliament demonstrated the Turkish people's desire for democracy, stability and progress.

The GAERC Council President also observed that the European Union was closely monitoring procedures in connection with the proscription of political parties and expressed the hope that the decision on these issues would comply with the principles of the European Court of Human Rights and the guidelines of the Venice Commission. In any case, the European Union calls upon all the actors in the Turkish political arena to resolve differences of opinion through dialogue and compromise. Attention in Turkey should not be deflected away from the reform process aimed at achieving compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.

Dr Rupel continued by referring to a number of specific issues.  He reminded Turkey that an impartial, reliable, transparent and efficient judiciary which consolidates the rule of law is of utmost importance for the country: relations with the military forces during the constitutional crisis in 2007 show that priority should be given to the democratic process. Dr Rupel also pointed to the violation of freedom of speech since citizens are still being persecuted for expressing opinions, even non-violently. He nevertheless welcomed the adoption of a new law which resolves some important issues relating to freedom of religious belief. He added, however, that further measures were required to ensure the coexistence of all religious beliefs without barriers. Activities relating to concerns for the rights of women, children and trade unions also needed to be intensified.

In respect of the situation in the eastern and south-eastern part of the country, Dr Rupel again condemned all terrorist attacks on Turkish territory and expressed support for the Turkish citizens who were the victims of these attacks. He welcomed the dialogue and cooperation between Turkey and Iraq, but at the same time stressed the need for the authorities to start tackling the economic and social problems of the population in this territory and to establish conditions for the Kurdish people to enjoy their rights and freedoms. The Slovenian Foreign Minister concluded by warning Turkey that it must strive for good neighbourly relations and a peaceful settlement of disputes with neighbouring countries in accordance with the terms laid down by the European Council.


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Date: 30.05.2008