The parliament rejected amendments to the report regarding the incidents of 1915 submitted by a group of French MEPs trying to support Armenian allegations against Turkey. The own-initiative report, drawn up by Dutch parliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten, "welcomes the commitment of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan that 2008 is going to be the year of reforms" and "urges the Turkish government to fulfill its promises" by implementing them. While the Parliament stresses that "modernization is first and foremost in Turkey's own interest," it also notes that "further delays will seriously affect the pace of negotiations."
MEPs expressed their concern about "the excessive use of force by Turkish police against demonstrators at this year's May Day parade in Istanbul. The amendment also said the changes made in the controversial article 301 of Turkish Penal Code were not enough and urged Turkish parliament to revise the article and completely remove other restrictive stipulations. The report, adopted last month by the European Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed concern about the potential consequences of the recent dissolution case filed against Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Another amendment to the report said the EP expected Turkish Constitutional Court to act in accordance with the Venice Commission guidelines and European standards on the prohibition of political parties. It also called on the Turkish government to respect pluralism, secularism and democracy while carrying out reforms and to reach a compromise with political parties and urged the political parties to distance themselves from violence and terrorist organizations.
"Since the last report, we have seen some very positive developments in Turkey (the Law on Foundations, some reform of Article 301). We have a mixed picture, and a lot more needs to be done in order for Turkey to keep its promises to the EU and to its own people," Ruijten said in the debate on Wednesday morning. She said a new constitution is the only way the government can ensure separation of state and religion, and all civil society representatives need to be involved in this process, adding that 2008 was supposed to be the year of reforms for Turkey.
"We have a mixed picture, a lot more needs to be done, in order for Turkey to keep their promises to the EU and to their own people. This is a balanced report... But we are concerned with regard to the case against the AKP, hopefully the constitutional court will follow international law on this issue," she said. "We want to ensure that Turkey remains a lay state. Separation between church and state is creating friction in Turkish society. Nearly 50% of citizens are concerned about the state of the secular state. A new constitution is the only way the government can ensure separation of state and religion, and all civil society representatives need to be involved in this process," Ruijten added.
Parliament can make recommendations on foreign policy, although these are not binding on the 27 EU states. The resolution will be taken into account when the Commission makes its annual report on Turkey accession process in October.