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Source: Daily Star,  Porto Carras, Greece; EU welcomed the latest reform pledges  of Türkiye; June 21, 2003


The European Union welcomed Friday the latest reform pledges by Türkiye, but urged Ankara to make “significant” further reforms if it wants to start EU entry talks, a draft statement said.

EU leaders, meeting at a summit in northern Greece, welcomed in particular Türkiye’s commitment to bringing legislation into line with EU standards by the end of this year. But it said: “Taking into account progress achieved, significant further efforts to this end are still required,” according to the draft version of the summit’s final conclusions.


In Brussels, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, saw the package as “a clear sign of Türkiye’s determination to go ahead with necessary reforms,” said commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori.

“The implementation of these measures is instrumental and will be a fundamental part of our assessment on whether Türkiye meets or does not meet the political criteria,” he said.


Despite reservations by the powerful military, the Turkish Parliament unanimously passed a package aimed at bolstering broadcasting rights in Kurdish and abolishing some laws restricting freedom of thought and expression. These are aimed at improving Ankara’s chances of being given a green light at an EU summit in December 2004 to begin membership talks. The EU has repeatedly put off a decision, citing concern over Türkiye’s reforms notably in the field of human rights. But Türkiye has been persistent in expressing its desire to join the bloc.

In an article published Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara is irreversibly committed to joining the European Union. “Türkiye has always been part of the European family,” Gul wrote in the Sabah newspaper. “Becoming a member (of the EU) will be the natural culmination of a 200-year modernization process.”


The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), rushed the reform package through Parliament in time for the three-day EU summit.

Gul said Ankara had been “irreversibly” committed to joining the union since 1999, when it officially became a membership candidate. He also stressed that future relations with Greece, often strained to breaking point over the divided island of Cyprus, would be conducted with “friendship and cooperation,” helping the Aegean become “a sea of peace.”


Thursday’s reform package mainly expands the freedom of expression and cultural rights of the country’s sizeable Kurdish minority. In particular, it paves the way for radio and television stations to air programs in the Kurdish language and allows Kurds to give their children Kurdish names.


The reforms also abolish an article on “propagating separatism,” a catch-all provision which has been widely used to jail writers and intellectuals advocating Kurdish rights.


The reforms had drawn the ire of Türkiye’s powerful army on the grounds that they could encourage Kurdish separatism in the country, where a 15-year armed rebellion for Kurdish self-rule was crushed in 1999.

Türkiye is the only one of the the 13 EU entry candidates that has yet to begin accession talks with the Union. Top


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