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Schroeder says Turkey must clean up democracy to join EU

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  • Schroeder says Turkey must clean up democracy to join EU

    Schroeder says Turkey must clean up democracy to join EU

    Agence France Presse -- English
    May 4, 2005 Wednesday 2:27 PM GMT

    ISTANBUL May 4 -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday
    criticized Turkey for a string of deficiencies in its democracy, urging
    the country to correct them if it wants to join the European Union.

    "Mistreatment by security forces, limits on freedom of expression and
    discrimination against women are incompatible with our common values,"
    Schroeder said at a speech at Marmara University here after official
    talks in Ankara.

    The German leader also spoke of the "necessity of reform" in religious
    freedoms in this mainly Muslim country, specifically mentioning a
    meeting earlier in the day with the Istanbul-based spiritual leader
    of the Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

    Turkey is under pressure to remove legal obstacles for non-Muslim
    religious foundations to fully exercise their property rights and to
    reopen a Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul closed down more than
    30 years ago.

    Schroeder, who was receiving an honorary doctorate from the university,
    called on Ankara to address problem areas before it begins accession
    talks with the European bloc on October 3 and urged it to swiftly
    implement reforms it has already adopted to achieve European norms.

    Turkey "should not diminish its efforts," he said, adding: "Turkey
    has achieved many reforms so far but there is still much to do."

    Earlier Wednesday, Schroeder told reporters after meeting Turkish
    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the EU is determined to open
    accession talks with Turkey on time.

    He brushed aside concerns that a May 29 referendum in France on the
    European constitution, whose result is uncertain, could undermine
    Turkey's bid.

    "No referendum anywhere in Europe will affect Turkey's EU process,"
    he said.

    Schroeder also backed a Turkish proposal to Armenia to create a joint
    commission of historians to study allegations that the Ottoman Turks
    committed genocide against their Armenian subjects during World War I.

    "We want Turkish-Armenian relations to improve," Schroeder said.
    "Germany is ready to do its best to help in this issue and open
    its archives."

    Germany and the Ottoman Empire, from which the present-day Turkish
    Republic was born, were allies during World War I, when the Armenian
    massacres occurred.

    Turkey has come under mounting international pressure to recognize
    the 1915-1917 killings as genocide; some EU politicians, including
    the German opposition, argue that Ankara should address the genocide
    claims if it wants to join the European bloc.

    Erdogan, meanwhile, denounced an appeal issued by the German parliament
    last month calling on Ankara to face up to its history.

    He said he "conveyed our serious concerns and expectations" on the
    issue to Schroeder.

    The two leaders said they also discussed the Cyprus conflict, a major
    stumbling block to Turkey's EU membership bid.

    Schroeder pledged he would work for the release of a 259-million
    euro (335-million dollar) EU aid package earmarked for the breakaway
    Turkish Cypriot community and the activation of measures aimed at
    easing trade restrictions imposed on the island's Turkish sector.

    The EU promised the aid last year as a reward for the strong support
    Turkish Cypriots gave to a UN peace plan, which was killed off by an
    overwhelming "no" by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot side.

    The measures have been blocked, however, because of opposition by
    the Greek Cypriots, who joined the EU in May 2004.

    Schroeder's Social Democrat-Green coalition has been a staunch
    supporter of Turkey's EU aspirations, but Germany's main opposition
    Christian Democratic Union advocates a special status for Turkey
    rather than full membership.

    Germany is Turkey's largest trading partner and home to the largest
    Turkish immigrant community in Europe, some 2.5 million people.

    Schroeder is scheduled to return home after attending a meeting of
    Turkish and German business people here Wednesday evening.
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