Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Turkey's progress towards accession

Delivered in Plenary - 26th September 2006

Mr President

The stated EU position and that of my party is to support Turkish EU membership. But nevertheless, no one can under-estimate the challenges it poses in terms of Turkey’s absorption into the EU, with its very large population and hence the political influence it will gain by joining the EU, its relative poverty and therefore demands on the structural funds, as well as its distinct and separate cultural and religious identity.

Given the current discussion on large-scale immigration, and in particular the challenges faced by integrating the existing Muslim minorities in our countries, a major concern inevitably will be unrestricted freedom of movement of Turkish workers. Turkey’s membership of the Organization of the Islamic Conference countries will certainly complicate the CFSP. Recent Marshall Fund of Germany polls in Turkey have shown it to be the most anti-American and anti-Israeli country amongst EU and candidate countries; but more worrying in my view is large Turkish support for theocratic Iran.

Turkey will of course have to abide by all the economic, political and human rights clauses of the Copenhagen criteria before joining, and there are clear examples of continuing discrimination against Christian minority rights, including the Greek Orthodox and Syriacs, and ongoing impediments to free speech, such as Article 301 of the Penal Code prohibiting insulting Turkishness.

In my view, failure by Turkey to come to terms with its past, including the 1915 Armenian genocide and the blockade of the Republic of Armenia, is deeply regrettable. But non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, where Turkey continues to station troops since the 1974 invasion, and the failure to implement the Ankara Agreement on the enlarged customs union to allow Cypriot ships to dock at Turkish ports, is currently a critical issue before the European Union. Neither is it true that torture has completely stopped, in spite of it being banned by the State; it is still allegedly being used against Kurdish insurgents, and we have heard about that from Mrs Flautre. We can therefore be sure that EU accession negotiations will be very lengthy, and I for one fully support the Eurlings report.