Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'New constitution should be for all of Turkish society' says EP rapporteur

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Turkish Daily News

BRUSSELS – Turkish Daily News

While discussions on the new Constitution abound among political parties and NGOs, a warning to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the same matter came from the European Parliament through Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the parliament's new rapporteur for Turkey who spoke to the Turkish Daily News Monday.

“I am convinced if a new constitution is coming for Turkey, it will be for all of Turkish society, but I cannot wait until it is finalized,” said Oomen-Ruijten. “If Turkey wants to change its constitution it is fine. But I remember from my own experience at the European Parliament, and also my own country the Netherlands, a real change takes years.” Oomen-Ruijten maintains that safeguards are still needed even though the constitution is about to be amended, and Turkey's commitment in 2004 to enhance reforms and opens its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels are imperative.

Answering a question about secularism in Turkey, Oomen-Ruijten said: “If, in a secular state, a party takes inspiration from religion, it is fine with me. I am a Christian Democrat myself. But I do not take the bible for my daily political work.” The rapporteur also praised the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for its election victory and Abdullah Gül for becoming Turkey's president.

“This Parliament must clear the tasks which were left over from Turkey's 2004 commitments. Turkey is now a stable democracy. Better representation in Parliament can overcome all the problems Turkey had before.”

A message to the military

Oomen-Ruijten also provided information about her new report on Turkey, to be submitted to the parliament's foreign policy body. In the draft there is neither a reference to the April 27 declaration of the Turkish military nor to the political crisis that followed. The repeated interference of the Turkish Armed Forces in the political process, however, is criticized.

“If I had been the Chief of General Staff in Turkey, the morning after the elections I would not feel comfortable anymore. A big majority voted for the AKP, that is a fact. In a democracy it is the government and mostly the Parliament to decide on military policies. It has to be the same in Turkey.”

Armenian genocide

Finally, Oomen-Ruijten explained the reasons behind omitting Armenian Genocide claims in her draft resolution, unlike her predecessor Camiel Eurlings.

“I did not want to open the old debate. The most important thing is that Turkey has good relations with its neighbors, also with Armenia. Studies show us that the closed borders have huge negative impacts on the economy. In a global world you should have good relations with your neighbors, and while doing that you should also reconcile with the past.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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