Turkish membership would dramatically alter the European Union - If negotiations are to start, these must be 'open' in terms of their conclusion, Hans-Gert Poettering MEP
Turkish membership of the EU would dramatically alter the European Union, Hans-Gert Poettering, chairman of the EPP-ED parliamentary Group, warned today as the Commission set out its recommendations on Turkey's application.
Speaking in the discussion with Commission President Romano Prodi and the responsible Commissioner, Günter Verheugen, Poettering said: "If Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, it will be a different Union."
He pointed to the size of the country, which already had a population of 70 million; by 2020 it was predicted to rise to 90 million people. Their standard of living was only half that of the countries which had just joined the Union, he said. Geographically the European Union would stretch far into Asia. Moreover, the Union would undergo a cultural sea charge if Turkey were to join.
Poettering was sharply critical of statements made by Verheugen over the last few days in which the Commissioner said that Turkey did not practice "systematic torture". That, said Poettering, was "the non-word of the year - a cynical confirmation that torture is still going on.". It was true that the appropriate laws to abolish torture had been adopted, but in practice these were not being applied in the provinces.
This fact had recently been confirmed by a number of human rights organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Turkish Association of Human Rights, who were recently invited to a hearing organised by the EPP-ED parliamentary group devoted to this issue.
"We expect Mr Verheugen, the Commissioner responsible, not to make any decisions based on political complaisance, but rather to speak clearly about human rights in Turkey," Poettering said.
If at their meeting in December heads of state and government decided to open negotiations with Turkey, this should not imply a conclusion one way or the other" Poettering said. "What I mean in concrete terms is that negotiations could lead to membership, or not to membership, or to other forms of co-operation, for instance to a 'privileged partnership'."
The EPP-ED Group demanded that any decision by the European Council on opening negotiations with Turkey explicitly referred to the result remaining open. Poettering said that at the next EPP Summit he would press for a clear definition of this open-endedness in any decision of the European Council.
Poettering praised the achievements of Tayyip Erdogan's government, which had made great efforts to pursue progress and reforms in Turkey, and wished the government further success in this area. "However many of these reforms still remain on the drawing-board, and have not yet become part of people's everyday life in Turkey."
(translated from the original German)
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