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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Remarks on the Progress report on Turkey
European Parliament, plenary debate /Strasbourg
17 April 2013
President, Honourable Members,
I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Oomen-Ruijten for the high quality of the report we are discussing today.
Recent developments in European Union-Turkey relations give cause for optimism.
First, last December's Council spoke of a "new momentum in the accession negotiations". We are confident that we can open negotiation chapters again in 2013.
Second, we're making progress in our cooperation on visa and migration. We are confident that we can soon start a visa dialogue with Turkey, together with the signature of the readmission agreement between Turkey and the European Union.
Two weeks ago the Turkish Parliament adopted the Law on Foreigners and International Protection. Once properly implemented, this Law will also address some important issues of the visa roadmap.
Third, the dialogue on foreign policy issues between the European Union and Turkey has intensified. We hope this will lead to increased alignment with the European Union position.
We appreciate and support Turkey's continued active and vocal role on Syria, and its vital humanitarian role and management of the influx of Syrian refugees: Turkey hosts over 190,000 registered refugees today.
The news on the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel is also good.
Let me also underline a number of recent developments inside Turkey.
The drafting of a new constitution has arrived at a critical stage. The participatory process followed so far has our full support.
The courageous initiative to bring peace at last in the South-East of the country is a promising chance to end terrorism and to pave the way to an overall solution of the Kurdish issue.
The 4th Judicial Reform Package adopted by the Turkish Parliament last week is an important development in the respect for fundamental rights in Turkey. It does not exempt the government from passing further reforms.
Provisions remain in Turkish legislation that are a cause for concern, notably as regards freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, and that need to be addressed. I understand that the outstanding points will be included in the forthcoming Human Rights Action Plan, which I hope will be finalised very soon.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, the Commission looks forward to a re-launch of full-fledged negotiations as soon as possible with the aim of reaching a swift conclusion of the talks even though we understand that the immediate priorities of the new Cypriot administration lie elsewhere.
There should be no taboos in the search for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue. I hope that the overall positive environment I referred to at the beginning is transformed into an opportunity for the benefit of both the Greek Cypriot Community and the Turkish Cypriot Community.
A settlement will contribute significantly to the business environment too and unleash the full economic potential of the island, including in the area of energy.