In two resolutions adopted on Wednesday on the progress of Turkey and Montenegro in their EU membership negotiations, Parliament express concern at the "slow progress" on human rights and key reforms in Turkey in 2010, while welcoming Montenegro's official candidate status despite concerns over corruption.
The Cyprus-Turkey deadlock, lack of dialogue among Turkish political parties and the undermining of press freedom and other basic rights in Turkey are the key factors slowing down the country's EU accession talks, said rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL) during the debate.
The resolution, adopted with the support of a large majority of MEPs, welcomes Turkey's adoption of constitutional amendments but stresses that "an overall constitutional reform" is still needed to transform Turkey into a real democracy. MEPs also applaud the recent finalisation of negotiations on a readmission agreement to handle migration. Once this enters into force, the Commission should initiate "a visa dialogue, with particular attention to the matter of entry conditions for business people and students".
Among the main remaining challenges, MEPs list the worrying deterioration of press freedom, including self-censorship of national media and internet sites; the situation of women and rising rates of honour killings and forced marriages; and the lack of protection of religious minorities. "Only limited progress" has been made to ensure their legal protection so that they can own properties, open houses of worship or train clergy, adds the resolution.
The wording and specific demands of the text were hammered out in tough negotiations among Parliament's political groups. During the drafting process by the Foreign Affairs Committee, the EPP group agreed to withdraw an amendment calling on EU institutions to "study the possibility" of establishing a "privileged partnership" with Turkey, as an alternative to full EU membership.
In exchange, the committee avoided mentioning the "common goal of full EU membership" for Turkey, as the socialists would have wished. The final text instead has the same wording as last year, describing the opening of Turkey's accession negotiations in 2005 as the "starting point for a long-lasting and open-ended process".