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Plenary session of the European Parliament - Statement by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council on Progress by Turkey in 2007

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

First, allow me to thank the European Parliament, and in particular the honourable MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten, for the report on Turkey's 2007 progress. The Parliament's active engagement with the enlargement process is an important contribution to the debate on enlargement, and in this case to the specific debate on Turkey's accession process.

Building on the progress made in 2007, the Slovenian Presidency strives for further advancement of the accession process. At present, the remaining eight screening reports are being discussed in by the Council. Should technical preparations progress well, we may able to open two new chapters at the EU-Turkey Accession Conference in June.

As regards the reform process in Turkey, we agree with the Parliament's assessment that 2008 is a decisive year for the process and therefore Turkey should not miss this chance. A revised accession partnership, adopted this February, defines three priority areas where the Turkish state should accelerate the pace of reforms. Real progress on the ground will have a direct impact on further measures in the negotiating process.

In this context, I would like to stress that we share the Parliament's concerns about the initiated proceedings against the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Presidency has issued a statement underlining that the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, and must be respected. We will follow developments with great attention. We hope that the outcome will correspond to democratic standards and the rule of law. Reforms should not stagnate due to current developments, but need to be continued. To this end, consensus and compromise are essential.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to touch upon some aspects of promoting fundamental freedoms and respecting human rights – an area where early reforms in the state are particularly important. 

Regarding freedom of expression, we welcome the recent amendments of Article 301 of the Penal Code. They signify a constructive shift in the right direction; however proper implementation of this article is needed so that freedom of expression can be truly guaranteed. In addition to the mentioned changes, some other provisions should also be brought into line with European standards.

As for freedom of religion, we welcome the adoption of the Law on Foundations which is also a good step in the right direction. At the same time, we reiterate the need to adopt a legal framework that would provide for religious pluralism in line with European standards.

The outcome of the constitutional crisis last year reaffirmed the primacy of democratic processes in civil-military relations. However, the armed forces continue to exercise considerable political influence. Civilian democratic control over the military should be reinforced and parliamentary oversight of defence expenditures needs to be further strengthened.

Regarding the situation in the southeast of the country, we strongly condemn all terrorist attacks and express solidarity with the people of Turkey. We support Turkey's efforts to protect its population and fight terrorism. At the same time we underline that respecting provisions of international law and preserving regional peace and stability are of key importance.


Dear Members of the European Parliament,

As you know, the Union has been assessing Turkey's progress in preparing for accession, on the basis of fulfilling the Copenhagen political criteria and the provisions of the Negotiating Framework for Turkey. The EU Council will also measure progress against the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement. We regret that Turkey has not yet fulfilled this obligation and thus no progress has been made towards the normalisation of relations with the Republic of Cyprus.

Other important factors for achieving progress in accession negotiations undoubtedly include endeavours for good neighbourly relations and for a peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing the debate.


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Date: 21.05.2008