In Paris, independent commission urges fair treatment of Turkey's EU accession bid
A group of senior European politicians yesterday urged their French colleagues to live up to commitments made to Turkey on its European Union membership bid, saying that otherwise trust in the EU will be damaged. The Independent Commission on Turkey, a group of former European heads of state and government and other officials, publicized their analysis at a Paris press conference concerning their report, "Turkey in Europe: Breaking the Vicious Circle," which looks at key developments in Turkish-EU relations and suggests concrete steps to galvanize the negotiations. "Negative remarks by European politicians and the growing hesitation on enlargement is discouraging Turkish voters and politicians from achieving the EU goal," the commission warned. The commission also urged the Turkish government to speed up EU-inspired reforms, decrying a "slowdown." "We have not brought up the question of when Turkey would become an EU member," said commission head and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. "Turkey should become a member whenever it is ready. What we ask for is that Turkey receives equal treatment as all other candidate countries." Citing how all EU member countries agreed to declare Turkey a candidate country for EU full membership in 1999, and to start accession negotiations in 2005, he also said with these decisions, the EU pledged that Turkey's accession bid would be treated fairly, and would be subject to the same criteria as other candidate countries. Also speaking at the press conference, former French President Michel Rocard also said Europe should support Turkey, which he says has been improving peace and stability with its neighbors. "We should stand up for Turkey. This is important for both Europe and the region," he said, adding that French President Nicolas Sarkozy owes much to Turkey for the rapprochement between Syria and his country. For his part, Albert Rohan, the commission's rapporteur, said despite some difficulties, there are positive developments on several key issues, such as Cyprus, whose solutions are critical for Turkey's EU bid, adding that Turkey recently took important steps to improve relations with its neighbors and to solve longstanding domestic issues, referring to recent moves by Turkey and Armenia to work towards normalized bilateral ties, and a government initiative to solve the so-called Kurdish question or southeastern Anatolia issue by expanding democratic rights and freedoms. He also warned that negative statements by certain European leader on Turkey's accession bid have a negative impact on both Turkish and European public opinions. Established in 2004, the commission examines the challenges and opportunities presented by Turkey's possible EU membership. Besides Ahtisaari, Rocard, and Rohan, the commission is made up of other former heads of state and government and former top European officials as follows: Kurt Biedenkopf, Emma Bonino, Hans van den Broek, Bronislaw Geremek, Anthony Giddens, and Marcelino Oreja Aguirre. The commission is supported by the British Council and Turkey's Open Society Foundation.