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7/7/04 - TURKEY AND THE EUROPEAN UNION - 2004-07-08

International support for Turkey's admission to the European Union continues to grow. Turkey’s hosting of the recent NATO summit in Istanbul gave the process additional momentum. Many NATO members are also in the E-U. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said at the summit that if Turkey continues with human rights reforms, “Then you can decide no differently than to stick to your word” and admit Turkey to the E-U. Also in Istanbul, President George W. Bush said that E-U membership would benefit Turkey, Europe, and the Muslim world:

“America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union. Your membership would also be a crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West, because you are part of both. Including Turkey in the E-U would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion. It would expose the 'clash of civilizations' as a passing myth of history.”

Since receiving an invitation to begin the process of joining the E-U in 1999, Turkey has adopted reforms aimed at expanding human rights, including the rights of ethnic minorities, and reducing the role of the military in the political system. It was illegal to speak the Kurdish language in Turkey until 1991. In 2002, the Turkish parliament allowed private institutions to teach in Kurdish and other languages. In June of this year, Turkish state television began broadcasting in Kurdish, as well as Bosnian, Arabic, and Circassian. The U.S. has long encouraged reform in Turkey and will continue to do so.

“We admire the progress that has been made in Turkey across a whole range of issues over these past months,” said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Britain wants to see Turkey in the European Union.” In May, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis confirmed his country's support for Turkish membership in the E-U. The announcement came during the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Greece. By the end of the year, E-U leaders are expected to decide whether to grant Turkey a date for beginning membership negotiations. “I think developments on this issue will be more positive and faster from now on,” said Prime Minister Erdogan.

As President Bush put it, “fifteen years ago, an artificial line that divided Europe -- drawn at Yalta -- was erased. Now this continent has the opportunity to erase another artificial division -- by fully including Turkey in the future of Europe."