A week before Turkey is due to begin entry talks with the European Union, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a forum in Strasbourg has re-affirmed his support for Turkish membership in the bloc. Parliament president Josep Borrell welcomed Schroeder. The European Parliament’s opinion on the matter and on the extended customs union between Ankara and the EU will be defined in votes held this Wednesday.
Feelings are mixed. Dutch Greens member Joost Lagendijk is one of parliament’s specialists on Turkish questions: “We are positive, but we are also very critical on the Kurdish issue, on the human rights issue, on other issues that really have to change before Turkey can become a member.” Dutch conservative Camiel Eurlings, with parliament’s European People’s Party, also has extensive experience on Turkish concerns: “I think that that will happen next is Europe will monitor very precisely whether Turkey finds a way to normalise its relations with Cyprus, first of all, and second at the end of the year, we will as the European parliament set some clear deadlines for further political reform.” Schroeder said that a modern Turkey on a course of reform would be good for the EU; the talks would include European job safeguards and discussions on financial capacities; and that a harmony of Turkey’s commitment to Islam with European values would bring gains in stability and security for all.