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Press Release
Turkey's progress in its rapprochement with the European Union at the centre of talks between the EU and Turkey in Ankara

Date of release : 07-03-2005

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : EU-Turkey (Troika)

Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration and current President of the Council of the European Union, led a delegation of the European Troika at a ministerial meeting between the European Union and Turkey held in Ankara on 7 March 2005.

Turkey was represented by the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Gül. On the side of the European Union, the European Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, and the British Minister for European Affairs, Denis MacShane, also participated in the talks.

The ministerial meeting focused on the progress made by Turkey in its rapprochement with the European Union, and more specifically on reforms in the rights and freedoms of citizens.

The two parties also had an exchange of views on a number of current international matters, such as the peace process in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, the Southern Caucasus and relations between NATO and the European Union.

At the start of the meeting, Jean Asselborn expressed the concern of the European Union regarding the images of police officers mistreating demonstrators at a demonstration which took place in Istanbul on 7 March. The Turkish side responded favourably to the anxieties expressed by the European Troika and promised a detailed enquiry by the competent authorities into the incidents in question.

With regard to the legislative reforms under way in Turkey, Minister Asselborn expressed his appreciation of the presentation by his Turkish counterpart "of a long list of legislative changes which have taken place, which document the irreversibility and the depth of the movement of rapprochement between Turkey and the EU".

However, Jean Asselborn underlined "the importance of maintaining the pace of reforms in order to avoid any risk of losing momentum. Reforms are like a cycle race: as soon as one stops pedalling or brakes suddenly, there is a risk of taking a tumble."

According to the President of the Council, the European delegation indicated that it was expecting to see additional progress in the area of religious freedom, and more specifically in favour of non-Muslim minorities. In the eyes of the European Union, the new law on foundations should in particular resolve all the problems linked to property of religious communities and freedom of worship.

With regard to the question of the abolition of torture, the European Union noted that the "zero-tolerance" policy was producing its effects, while stressing the fact that the task now was to develop this policy everywhere, directly in line with the declared intent of the Turkish Government.

The two parties also discussed the situation in the south-east of Turkey. The European delegation stressed the necessity of reducing regional disparities and ensuring the return of displaced persons.

Jean Asselborn also considered that "the progressive use of the languages commonly used in Turkey in the cultural and political domain as well as in education constitutes an encouragement, and I am convinced that this use will grow."

Finally, the President of the Council of the European Union complimented the Turkish Government on its achievements in terms of the Europeanization of relations between the civil and military powers.

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This page was last modified on : 08-03-2005

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