|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||30/11/95, Volume 1, Number 11|
A MIXTURE of heavy outside lobbying and a fear of playing into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists is expected to convince the European Parliament to vote on the customs union with Turkey before the country's general elections are held on 24 December.
But there is also a growing view among MEPs that, for their support to be guaranteed, the European Commission must agree to continued rigorous monitoring of the respect for human rights in the country. Such a pledge could open the door to the agreement and its accompanying finances being frozen if abuses were established.
Just a month ago, parliamentary forces were evenly divided between those who favoured a pre-Christmas vote on the deal and those pressing for postponement. Each group Thered its tactics would be more effective in encouraging development of democracy in the country.
But one parliamentary source said this week: “It is becoming clear that, unless there is a last minute surprise, we may well get a positive vote from MEPs on 13 December for the agreement.”
Former French Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard is one of the leading MEPs arguing that the cause of democracy will be better served by an early vote.
The agreement, which would become operational as of January, would ensure Turkish industrial and agricultural goods unrestricted access to the 370 million ecu EU market and release about 1 billion ecu in blocked grants and loans.
“I do not believe in a policy of rejection. Turkey at our side would have more chance of evolving towards democracy,” Rocard recently told Euro MPs on the Parliament's foreign affairs committee.
The committee will play a key role in deciding when MEPs will be asked to give their opinion on the customs union. It will meet in Strasbourg on 11 December to consider the report on the agreement from Carlos Carnero, a Spanish member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left. He, like the Parliament's civil liberties committee, favours delay until after the Turkish elections.
MEPs are measuring Turkey's commitment to democracy against a number of yardsticks.
They are pressing for significant reform of the 1982 military constitution, the release of Kurdish MPs held in prison and further changes to the 1991 anti-terrorist law. They are also concerned at allegations of continued human rights violations, the treatment meted out to Kurds and the continued deadlock over Cyprus.
Divisions can be found not just between, but also within, political groups. Christian Democrats are the strongest supporters of an early vote on the agreement, with opinion more evenly split within the Socialists. All the groups are expected to try and work out their tactics in the first week of December.
Liberal Group leader, Dutch MEP Gijs de Vries, recently returned from a fact finding visit to Turkey, confirmed he will recommend his group vote for the customs union in December. But he believes that support should be subject to two conditions.
“The process whereby 123 prisoners of conscience out of the 146 held in prison have already been released should continue. I also want the Commission, in the annual report it will publish on implementation of the customs union, to cover not just the economic aspects, but also political fundamentals including human rights,” explains de Vries.
He wants the process to include a clear follow-up policy which would give the Union the possibility of freezing the customs union if events went drastically wrong in Turkey.
He also firmly believes that the European Parliament's power to approve or reject the agreement and the attention MEPs are paying to the country have persuaded the Turkish authorities to carry out their recent reforms and release prisoners.
Ankara has spared no effort in explaining its cause to MEPs and the media.
The country's Prime Minister Tansu Çiller has toured EU capitals lobbying governments to put pressure on their MEPs, particularly the Socialists, and this week Turkish Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal warned of the dangerous consequences of a delayed or a 'No' vote.
As the fate of the EU's relations with Turkey hang in the balance, a senior parliamentary official insisted: “We must be quite clear. No one is against the customs union as such. It is a question of deciding whether voting on it before or after the elections will have the desired effect of promoting democracy and human rights in the country.”
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations, Trade, Values and Beliefs|
|Countries / Regions||Turkey|