EU Urges New Approach for Southeast TURKEY


EU members agreed on late Thursday on a 32-page common position paper for Monday's Association Council meeting, the highest institutional body regulating Customs Union and relations between EU and Turkey. Within this draft Turkey is asked to abolish the system of village guards and to take steps to clear the area of landmines. It says situation of internally displaced persons remains difficult, and further encourages Turkey to provide compensations for those who suffered losses resulting from terrorist acts.


(10.06.2006)

Brussels, Ankara -- The European Union is set to urge the Turkish government on Monday to develop a comprehensive new approach towards its lagging and mostly Kurdish-populated southeast with a view to reduce regional disparities and improve economic, social and cultural opportunities.

EU members agreed on late Thursday on a 32-page common position paper for Monday's Association Council meeting, the highest institutional body regulating Customs Union and relations between EU and Turkey.

According to the final draft obtained by The New Anatolian, the EU is to raise a number of significant issues including the resumption of terror and situation in the southeast, anti-torture efforts, freedom of expression, civil-military relations, equal right for women, trade union rights, and the situation of religious minorities in the meeting.

The common position paper agreed by all EU members expresses concern over unrest early this year in the southeast and blames the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for the resumption of violence and condemns it. The paper further calls on the group to immediately cease all provocations and violence.

It also urges the Turkish government to take a new approach:

"The Union encourages Turkey to develop a comprehensive approach -- including dialogue -- to reducing regional disparities, and in particular to improve the situation in southeastern Turkey, with a view to enhancing economic, social and cultural opportunities for all Turkish citizens, including those of Kurdish origin," the paper stresses.

The draft continues by asking Turkey to abolish the system of village guards and to take steps to clear the area of landmines. It says situation of internally displaced persons remains difficult, and further encourages Turkey to provide compensations for those who suffered losses resulting from terrorist acts.

Torture and ill-treatment diminishing

The EU in its document praises Turkey's recent efforts against torture and ill-treatment, and says their incidence is diminishing. "Reforms adopted in Turkey over the last years have contributed to establishing a legislative and regulatory framework capable of effectively combating torture and other forms of ill-treatment," it said.

On the judiciary, the EU notes that with adoption of structural reform judiciary system has been further strengthened but it also stresses the considerable role that judges and prosecutors need to play in the implementation of reforms and the crucial importance of training judges, prosecutors and lawyers in particular on International and European Conventions in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The EU also expresses trust that the ongoing judicial proceedings on last November's events in Semdinli will be held in accordance with the principle of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

On civil-military relations, EU says that while some changes have been introduced over the last year, further efforts are needed to ensure full civilian control over the military, in line with the practice in EU member states. "It is essential that Turkey consolidates reforms adopted in previous years and remains committed to further reforms in this area. The civilian authorities should fully exercise their supervisory functions, in particular as regards the formulation of the national security strategy and its implementation, especially with regard to relations with neighboring countries," the document stresses.

Serious concerns on freedom of expression

On freedom of expression, the EU paper stresses that serious concerns remain. "Despite recent positive developments where prosecuted individuals were acquitted, there are still a number of cases pending against individual persons for nonviolent expression of opinion on the basis of Article 301 of the new penal code as well as other articles," the document says. Noting that only in some cases persons have been convicted, the EU underlines that the risk of being subject to legal procedures under these articles can discourage the exercise of freedom of expression.

"If judges and prosecutors continue to give a restrictive interpretation of these provisions, Turkey will have to amend the vaguely formulated articles in line with the relevant EU standards. There are persisting concerns about far-reaching provisions in the draft Anti-Terror Law which could have some negative implications for the exercise of fundamental freedoms, inter alia for freedom of expression, pre-trial detention and the rights of defense," the document further stresses.

No progress in addressing non-Muslim minorities

In the area of freedom of religion, EU said "no progress" has been observed over the last year in terms of addressing the difficulties faced by non-Muslim religious minorities. "These minorities continue to experience difficulties connected with access to legal personality, property rights, training, residence rights and work permits of Turkish and non-Turkish clergy, schools and internal management," the EU document underlines.

The EU further urges Turkey to reopen the Heybeliada (Halki) Greek Orthodox Seminary and further calls on Ankara to address the situation of the Alevi community, which according to the EU continues to experience difficulties in terms of recognition of places of worship, representation in relevant state bodies as well as in relation to compulsory religious education.

Honor killings continue despite heavy penalties

On women's rights, the EU says it remains concerned by the high incidence of domestic violence and in particular by "honor killings," which continue to occur in spite of the heavy penalties provided for by the new penal code.

"There are other sources of concern in particular the low participation in the labor market and in political life and the relatively low rate of enrollment in education especially in some regions of the country," the document highlights.

On the issue of trade union rights, the EU is highly critical of Turkey, saying that "there is no tangible progress" in this field. "The Union calls upon Turkey to make the necessary amendments to the laws regulating trade union rights, namely the trade unions law and the collective bargaining, strike and lockout law, in order to achieve trade union rights in line with EU standards and the relevant ILO conventions," the document says.

The EU also raises its expectation that Turkey will soon adopt a new National Program for the adoption of EU legislation, which would serve as a planning tool for Turkey for further reforms. "This should also contribute to the consolidation of the political reform process in order to guarantee its irreversibility and ensure its uniform implementation throughout the country and at all levels of the administration," the document says.

Von: 11.06.2006, http://www.aina.org, Assyrian International News AgencyThe New Anatolian

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