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Media Watch 2005

07 March 2005
Source: Bloomberg
Author:
Comment: The following article appeared on Bloomberg on 7 March 2005.
EU Criticizes Police, Says Turks Must Implement Laws


March 7 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union condemned violence yesterday by Turkish police against demonstrators in Istanbul and urged the government to take steps to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights as part of its bid to join the 25-member bloc.

Police used pepper gas and batons against women and children and arrested scores of people at a rally to mark International Women's Day. Turkey's parliament last year passed laws strengthening rights of peaceful assembly.

``We condemn all violence, and demonstrations have to be conducted in a peaceful manner,'' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told a news conference in Ankara. ``I want to underline the need to properly implement reforms. It's very important to keep the reform process going.''

Turkey is relying on membership talks with the EU, due to start on Oct. 3, to help attract foreign investment and reduce the cost of servicing its $250 billion debt. Hansjoerg Kretschmer, the head of the European Commission in Turkey, last week said the government had been slow to implement EU-backed laws since it won a date to start membership talks three months ago.

Investigation

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul expressed his ``sorrow'' over the violence and pledged a full investigation. Turkey must continue to strengthen minority and women's rights and bolster freedom of expression, Rehn told reporters after meetings with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, U.K. Minister for Europe Denis McShane and Turkish officials.

The U.S. and Britain say the EU must embrace a country that's both Muslim and democratic to help win the war on terror and encourage democracy in the Middle East. Turkey, which became a candidate for EU membership in 1999, borders countries including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia. It's the only member of the North Atlantic treaty Organization that's 99 percent Muslim.

The EU will run a so-called ``screening process'' for Turkey's membership parallel with accession negotiations starting in October, Rehn told reporters yesterday. Turkey should maintain zero tolerance for torture and respect the rights of non-Muslims to help its case for membership, he said.

Framework

The European Union will publish a framework for the negotiations with Turkey by the end of June, Rehn said. The document outlines the political and economic steps the nation must take before it can join the 25-nation EU.

``The government perhaps has been too busy with other domestic and political issues,'' said Volkan Kurt, an economist at Finans Yatirim Securities in Istanbul. ``The problem of course has been on the implementation side. The government needs more time for implementation of the reforms.''

One area where the government needs to improve the enforcement of its ``zero-tolerance'' of torture is in them mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, Yusuf Alatas, head of the country' Human Rights Association, said in an interview on March 3.

The government must also tackle problems with freedom of expression that have resulted in several court cases against the media in the past year, the EU's Kretschmer said last week.

French Opposition

Turkey shouldn't be allowed to join the EU because its culture and history aren't sufficiently European, say some EU politicians, including Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of French President Jacques Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement Party. Chirac last year said the talks may take 15 years to complete.

By 2025, Turkey would swallow up EU farm and regional subsidies equal to about 0.17 percent of annual European economic output, or about $20 billion in today's terms, the European Commission said in a report published in October. France, the biggest beneficiary of the EU's $47 billion budget for agriculture, gets $9 billion in farm aid.

The EU's political leaders agreed at a summit on Dec. 17 to start the negotiations with Turkey after the government took steps to curb the political influence of the military and improve the rights of the nation's 12 million Kurds.

Today's meetings increased chances that Turkey would sign in the coming weeks a protocol to extend its free trade agreement with the EU to include Cyprus, Asselborn said. Such a step might pave the way for EU aid to Turkish Cyprus and direct trade with the north of the Island. Turkey must approve the accord before it can start the accession process.

The Turkish government has said that widening the protocol won't mean recognition of the Greek Cypriot south, which joined the EU in May. The Island has been divided since 1974, after Turkish forced invaded in response to a brief coup by Greek Cypriots."