European parliament hopeful on turkey's EU reforms this year
This week members of the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council are jointly debating a draft progress report on Turkey by EP Turkey Rapporteur Rita Oomen-Ruijten. Amid praise for recent moves such as expanding the cultural rights of Turkey's Kurds and forming a special commission for women in Parliament, Turkey was urged to speed up EU reform efforts. EP Socialist Group leader Martin Schulz said, "We believe in Turkey, and the accession negotiations with Turkey should be accelerated." For her part, Oomen-Ruijten said that they were getting positive signals from Turkey on its determination to carry out necessary reforms for EU accession this year, adding that 10 years ago, Turkey's new state-run, Kurdish-language TV channel was unimaginable. She said that the EU places great importance on Turkey's role in the Caucasus and normalization of its relations with Armenia. Saying that its main concern is Turkey's continued slow pace of reforms, she called on Ankara to prove its political will for the reform process. Alexander Vondra, the deputy premier of EU Term President the Czech Republic, said work is underway to open the negotiation chapters on taxation and social policy and employment, adding that they also want to open the energy chapter. In its progress report, the EP is expected to call on Turkey to focus on the possible role in unsolved murders of Ergenekon, an illegal crime network vested in the state which has been charged with plotting to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, including the 2007 assassination of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. The draft report says, "The European Parliament welcomes the beginning of the trial against those accused of being members of the Ergenekon criminal organization, encourages the authorities to continue investigations and to fully uncover the organization's networks which reach into the state structures, is concerned about reports regarding the treatment of defendants in this case, urges the Turkish authorities to provide them with a fair trial and to adhere strictly to the principles of the rule of law."