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AHI applauds the European Commission Report on Turkey that highlights the settlement of the Cyprus issue as a major political criterion for Turkey’s accession in the EU.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: ANGELIKI VASSILIOU
November 7, 2003 No. 53 (202) 785-8430

AHI applauds the European Commission Report on Turkey that highlights the settlement of the Cyprus issue as a major political criterion for Turkey’s accession in the EU.

WASHINGTON, DC—AHI issues the following statement, particularly since the important European Commission Report on Turkey was not mentioned in the U.S. press.

On November 5, 2003, the European Commission published the 2003 Strategy Paper "Continuing Enlargement" and its Regular Report on Turkey’s progress towards accession in the EU. The report assesses Turkey’s progress based on a number of political, economic and legal criteria. The overall assessment of Turkey was critical towards its performance on the human rights, democracy, civil rights and the protection of minorities chapters and particularly with regards to the Cyprus issue.

The report reiterated "that efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem form part of the enhanced dialogue between the European Union and Turkey…The absence of a settlement could become a serious obstacle to Turkey’s EU aspirations.'' In its recommendations part, the Commission states: "As regards Cyprus the European Council has repeatedly underlined its strong preference for accession by a united Cyprus…To this end the EU should reiterate its call to all parties concerned, in particular Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, to resume the talks on the basis of the UN Secretary General’s proposal…The Thessaloniki European Council stated the Union’s willingness to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded." (emphasis added.) The report also condemns the framework agreement that Turkey signed on August 8, 2003, aiming to establish a customs union with the Northern part of Cyprus and criticizes Turkey for not having honored yet its commitment in the Loizidou case.

With regard to human rights and protection of minorities the report states that "Turkey still faces problems in relation to the execution of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)."

"Turkey has not yet taken all the necessary measures—prescribed by the Court in 1999- to redress a number of violations of the right of freedom of expression, namely the striking out of the criminal convictions unjustifiable imposed and the restoration of civil rights." With regard to the freedom of religion, the report acknowledges that "non-Moslem religious minorities continue to face serious obstacles with respect to legal personality, property rights, internal management, and a ban on the training of clergy."

Overall, "the Commission considers that Turkey does not yet fully meet the Copenhagen political criteria. A clear framework for guaranteeing political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights is not fully established, and more efforts are needed to enhance the coherence of legal provisions and practice."

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, stated with regard to the Commission’s criticism of Turkey on Cyprus: "we cannot hide the fact that saying this in a strategy document has some political importance. And it is a political message, it is quite a considerable one, the Commission wanted to make it clear that they do see a political link here and that they are encouraging Turkey to be more active, take more initiatives in order to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN plan."

The report triggered strong negative reaction among the Turkish press.

For the full text of the report visit http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/report_2003/index.htm. For more information contact Angeliki Vassiliou at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about AHI, please visit our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.

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The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and its affiliate organizations, the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC), the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF), and the AHI Business Network, a division of the AHI, are working together under one roof, to provide a joint program for strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus and within the American Hellenic community.