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Relieved EU urges the new government to resume reforms

BRUSSELS-Turkish Daily News | 7/24/2007 12:00:00 AM | Cansu ÇAMLIBEL

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Turkish Daily News in Brussels, European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn described the result of Sunday's elections as a clear sign of

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Turkish Daily News in Brussels, European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn described the result of Sunday's elections as a clear sign of functioning democracy in Turkey. Rehn established Brussels' expectations, saying: “The new government and the new Parliament should not only say they are in favor of EU membership, because if you say this then you should also be in favor of the reforms to improve lives of Turkish citizens. There has been substantial progress in Turkey during the last five years. And this explains the victory of the AKP (The Justice and Development Party)." He emphasized the need for a positive signal from the new government on reforms, pointing at concrete steps to improve fundamental and religious freedoms.

EU and the Turkish constitution :

Discussing the political row between the Turkish military and the AKP that emerged last April, Rehn reflected on the sensitivities ahead. “I am fully aware of the political tensions related to democracy and secularism. Turkish people should see EU membership as an anchor of democratic secularism or secular democracy. The objectives of the EU are fully in line with the Turkish constitution. The first articles of the constitution guarantee secularism and democracy. EU accession process also goes along with both in the course of democracy and secularism,” Rehn said. While avoiding comment on the MHP's entry to the Parliament, EU Commissioner Rehn said, “the EU does not have and should not have a vote. Thus, it is not my task as the EU Commissioner to comment on individual parties. Electoral results reflect the political will of Turkish people. I trust that all newly elected parliamentarians will contribute to solid functioning of Turkish democracy. All of them will have a key role to play”.

Barosso praised Erdoğan's personal commitment :

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barosso also welcomed the results. Congratulating Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan on his impressive victory in the national elections, Barosso said, “this comes at an important moment for the people of Turkey as the country moves forward with political and economic reforms." Barosso stated that Prime Minister Erdoğan has shown his personal commitment to the sustained movement towards the European Union.  

A short-term to-do-list is ready for the AKP :

EU diplomats describe the mood in Brussels as relieved since the pro-European Union AKP will be at the helm for another term. They interpret popular support for the AKP as a visa for enhanced relations between Ankara and Brussels. However, they also point at the fact that the AKP does not have an easy job ahead after a long period of stagnation in reforms. Short-term priorities and expectations of Brussels from the new government are already defined. The EU wants to see the new Parliament passing four crucial laws before the release of the progress report in November, notably the law on ombudsman, law on the court of auditors, and the amendment of the famous Article 301 relating to freedom of expression. Although there is optimism in Brussels that the AKP will keep up with the reforms, there is also room for concern regarding possible blockage of reform laws by the CHP and the MHP. EU diplomats believe if the MHP carries its pre-election rhetoric into the Parliament it could have damaging effects on the reform process, which needs to be speeded up immediately.

Turkish people's message to Sarkozy:

European Parliament socialists praised Turkish voters for standing up to military pressure and for pushing aside French President Nicolas Sarkozy's hostility to Turkey's EU hopes. Socialist Group Vice President Jan Marinus Wiersma said, "the Sarkozy effect in the elections did not materialize. If President Sarkozy's views had made any impact on people, they would have voted for the anti-Europeans or the nationalists." He also stated that results confirm that Turkish people are not intimidated by pressure from the military on the AKP. Vice President of the Liberal Group at European Parliament Andrew Duff said, "Turkey's generals should take this as a message to keep out of politics and allow Turkey to grow as a prosperous state, with its secularism protected by the ballot box rather than the military. Diehard Kemalists should catch up with modern Turkey”.  

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