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Initiative should go on, says Spanish envoy to Turkey

22 December 2009 [09:45] - TODAY.AZ
'The democratic opening is a real cornerstone in Turkey,' says Ambassador Joan Clos from Spain, the next term president of the European Union. Clos, however, says, 'We should separate terror and normal democratic political fights' when it came to the remarks in favor of imprisoned terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Turkey has to continue its democratic efforts to solve the Kurdish question despite the existing difficulties in its way, Spain’s ambassador to Turkey said.

“The European Union is very supportive of the democratic opening because it is a real cornerstone of human rights and improvements in Turkey,” Joan Clos told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Spain will take over the rotating EU presidency from Sweden on Jan. 1.

While the Turkish government launched an initiative to end the country’s decades-old Kurdish issue, recent deadly attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and thousands of marchers asking for better conditions for imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan have triggered tension across the country.

“This is a very difficult process,” Clos said, adding that Spain also went through similar experiences. “More or less, it has taken a long period time for us. We still have some problems.”

Clos illustrated the imperative of continuing the initiative, saying: “We don’t want to interfere in domestic affairs but we really do encourage Turkey in general to advance in this process. There is no way back from now on. It is difficult to give any magical advice. The direction should be sustained despite the process facing problems.”

He said, “There are some similarities but also huge differences between the Spanish and Turkish cases,” adding that every case is related to its own historical and social-economical roots.

The constitutional reform was the beginning of the solution in Spain, Clos said.

When the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, was closed due to its links with the PKK, some members of the party announced it would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Turkish Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç said all relevant cases, including Batasuna in Spain, were inspected before giving the verdict to close the DTP. In 2003, Spain outlawed Batasuna due to links between Basque nationalists and the Basque Homeland and Freedom organization, or ETA, recognized as a terror group by the EU. After a long inquiry in July 2009, the European court also backed the Spanish ruling.

“I think there could be some similarities. This is a constitutional issue for both Spain and Turkey,” Clos said.

On the subject of former deputies of the disbanded DTP advocating and promoting remarks by Öcalan, Clos said: “We’re dealing with a terror problem that’s killing people. It is very serious to separate what is terror and what is a normal democratic political fight. It should be quite clear cut between them. This is the European and, of course, Spanish position.”

Turkey opened the environment chapter Wednesday in its bid to become a full member of the EU but much work remains as there are still 21 more chapters.

“Of course, we’re very interested in opening new chapters. Energy and education are two chapters we are very near to reaching an agreement,” said Clos.

Eight chapters are frozen because Ankara refuses to open its ports to EU-member Greek Cyprus unless an embargo over Northern Cyprus is lifted – a promise that was made earlier.

The Spanish ambassador said his country would work hard to facilitate the chapters including education, energy, public procurement, food control and competition.

Frustrated by the deadlock in Cyprus, Clos voiced his hope of seeing a settlement in 2010. “We‘ll be very happy if we can soon advance on that subject. It would be important for Turkey’s accession, but also to solve the conflict. We’ll do our best to help [create] a solution.”

The EU has no common attitude toward enlargement, Clos pointed out. “First, we should recognize the difficulty inside Europe. Because 27 members has made the union complicated, it is not easy to solve the competing interests of different countries.”

The ambassador, however, said the presence of the Lisbon Treaty provided an important opportunity for Turkey.

Stressing the economic crisis made Europeans more reluctant toward enlargement, Clos said, “When there is a crisis everybody looks to their own problems – they are less willing to look [to the] future … but improving the economic situation is also very important for Turkey’s accession to the union.”

Because the EU has opened its borders to non-members Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu urged the union to grant visa-free travel to Turks as well once Turkey fulfills technical requirements such as biometric passports.

“The Turkish case is different from the smaller countries. It is a very big country and has a very long frontier along Europe’s east,” Clos said, noting that readmission agreements and flexibilities for specific professions have been negotiated over the past several months.

Turkish diplomatic sources also said negotiations were underway on two parallel tracks – the readmission agreement and visa-free travel. “We expect to finalize talks and reach an agreement within the next few months,” a source told the Daily News on the condition of anonymity.

“The European Commission is now studying a revision of the Schengen requirements. I see an opportunity in this review to advance a solution to the Turkish problem,” Clos said, adding that reforms related to the justice chapter would also help solve the visa question.

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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