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EU will be big loser if Turkey’s membership fails, MEP says May 30, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Turkey must focus on democracy, the rule of law and individual and collective human rights if it wants to enter the EU, says MEP Ria Oomen Ruijten, who adds that Cyprus is not the main issue on Turkey’s EU membership agenda. She also says she is positive on Turkey’s constitutional reform and that she expects Kılıçdaroğlu to help facilitate the changes
Ria Oomen Ruijten, Turkey’s rapporteur at the European Parliament, speaks in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Ria Oomen Ruijten, Turkey’s rapporteur at the European Parliament, speaks in Istanbul.

Turkey should solve the Cyprus issue, but the divided island should not preoccupy the country’s bid for accession to the European Union, according to Turkey’s rapporteur at the European Parliament, or EP.

Democracy, the rule of law, individual and collective human rights are at the heart of the EU and should be the main issues on the table in EU-Turkey relations, Dutch MEP and rapporteur Ria Oomen Ruijten told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review during a visit to Turkey for this week’s EU-Turkey joint parliamentary meeting.

Elections in Holland
Regarding the general elections in the Netherlands, which will be held on June 9 this year, both Ruijten and Veld said it was unlikely that the Dutch Party for Freedom, or PVV, would be part of the coalition for the next government. Geert Wilder, the leader of PVV, has been feeding radical nationalistic, anti-immigration and anti-Turkey-in-the-EU speeches to the Dutch electorate. According to Veld, it is hard to imagine Wilder could be part of the new government, but in that case, the country would go for new elections within a year, which is what happened before in a similar situation. “It is very hard to govern in a coalition with a party that does not really have a coherent program,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said the negative effect coming from the division of Cyprus was undeniable and that Turkey had to take the first step to solve the issue, which would then be followed by the EU.

Sophie In’t Veld, another Dutch MEP and member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, however, told the Daily News that Turkey and the EU shared joint responsibility and that both must make a move on the issue.

Nonetheless, Turkey’s accession to the union would be difficult without a solution to the Cyprus issue, according to Veld, who said there were still many chapters on which Turkey must work that are equally important for the negotiation talks.

On June 10, the European Parliament will debate a commission proposal on direct trade with northern Cyprus.

According to the European Voice website, the government of Cyprus has been blocking discussion on the proposal since 2004, but will likely be unable to continue such action due to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which no longer requires all members to unanimously approve trade issues.

If such a proposal is adopted by the EP, it could unblock Turkey’s bid for EU membership.

Regarding Turkey’s EU membership, Veld said the EU would be the big loser if accession negotiations fail.

She said Turkey’s EU membership would improve both parties, adding that Turkey would make the union stronger and richer in terms of diversity and dynamism.

By pointing out Turkey’s great efforts in its economic reforms, Veld said the EU must benefit from Turks’ culture of entrepreneurship. “In Turkey, there are people who have entrepreneurship in their genes.”

Noting that there were a number of criteria for Turkey to fulfill and that some of the reforms might be painful, expensive or sensitive for society, Veld said the EU also had to fulfill its part in this respect.

“I am very disappointed at the ambiguity on the side of the EU,” she said, adding that it was also very important that the EU gave very clear signals that it wants Turkey to eventually join.

Touching on Turkish constitutional reform, Ruijten said she was positive about the reforms, adding that the Turkish judicial system would resemble that of EU member countries if it is approved by referendum in September.

Veld further said Turkey’s 10 percent threshold to enter Parliament should also be reduced, a view already voiced by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the Republic People’s Party, or CHP.

Both MEPs said they hoped Kılıçdaroğlu would help the reform package succeed.

Ruijten and Veld also held a discussion with journalists organized by the Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Turkey, or KAGİDER, on the role of women in Turkey’s social, economic and political life.

They both said Turkey should make more efforts to increase public awareness of women’s role in society, while also focusing on the implementation of laws that protect women’s rights.

Discussing the economic crisis, Ruijten said the safety net package in the EU was not enough and that much more should be done.

“A well-functioning political union will be the only solution to the economic crisis,” she said.

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