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Turkey Playing Hardball Over EU Campaign

December 10, 2004

By Christopher Deliso

Turkish PM Erdogan is irritating European leaders with his increasingly strong stance of not accepting “any new conditions” in the country’s quest to join the EU.

His attitude has been necessitated politically by Turkish frustrations over the seemingly endless list of demands that the flustered Union is putting up, in order to delay Turkey’s accession for as long as possible.

Especially egregious have been statements from people like French President Chirac that popular referendums in EU countries should in the end decide Turkey’s fate – ultimately, a way of passing the buck and blaming the faceless masses for decisions on which top politicians don’t want to be held accountable.

Especially in the hot seat is the Netherlands, which is currently holding the rotating EU presidency, and must take the lead in reaching a decision on December 17 over Turkey’s application. Dutch Christian Democrat MEP Camiel Eurlings, who must draft the European Parliament’s advice to EU government leaders, came away from tough negotiations in Ankara on Monday enraged at Turkey’s so-called “macho behaviour.”

Rather bombastically, Eurlings averred that this attitude “…was creating the danger the Turkish population would become convinced that the EU was placing too many demands on the mainly-Islamic nation,” according to Holland’s “This in turn would lead the Turkish people to rejecting the EU.”

Actually, this is rather fanciful; there is no “danger” now, as the perception has existed for years. After all, Turkey did not begin negotiating yesterday. And its people have still not rejected the Union out of spite. The Dutchman is in danger of having his bluff called.

Religious tensions have risen in Holland over the past couple months, with controversial filmmaker Theo Van Gogh killed by a Moroccan man and Islamic schools torched in retaliation.

However, MEP Eurlings received an indirect rebuke from EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, who stated Monday that “If membership negotiations begin, then the clear aim is membership if the conditions for it are met… There is no Plan B.” He was speaking out against proposals from despairing Turkophobes, who believe Turkey should be offered not full membership but “a privileged partnership.”

Despite what the critics are saying, Turkey continues to diligently follow orders in implementing reforms. Reuters reported Monday that the second-to-last law required by the European Union has been passed. It is known as the ‘criminal procedure bill’ and will come into effect on April 1, 2005.

The final law to be passed involves a revision of the penal code (again, to come into effect in April), “is expected to be passed” soon.

According to Reuters,

“…the criminal procedure bill spells out court procedures and the duties of judges and lawyers. It also deals with such issues as police searches and the tapping of telephones.

It stipulates that a suspect cannot be detained for more than 24 hours except for serious crimes, where prosecutors can order detention of up to three days. Suspects would have the right for a lawyer to be present during an interrogation. Witnesses would have the right to remain anonymous if revealing their identity put their life at risk. Under the law, a new judicial police would be established to handle interrogation of suspects.”

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