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European Parliament Takes Strong Action Regarding Religious Freedom and Turkey’s Accession to the EU

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Turkey‘s progress towards accession


Committee on Foreign Affairs

PE 374.360




Human rights and the protection of minorities

The European Parliament,

27. Deplores the fact that only limited progress has been reported over the last year as regards fundamental rights and freedoms; condemns violations of human rights and freedoms and constraints on the exercise of those rights and freedoms;


28. Reiterates the need for Turkey to comply with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including full and timely execution of all judgments of the ECHR;


29. Is concerned by the number of asylum-seekers leaving Turkey to go to the industrialised states during the year 2005; takes this to be an indication of Turkish under-performance either in the maintenance of its own borders or in the fields of justice, tolerance and the safeguarding of human rights; at the same time, recognises the progress made over the period from 2001 to 2005 when the number of asylum-seekers originating from Turkey reduced by 65% to just over 10,000 in 2005;

 30. Reminds Turkey of its recommendation that current human rights inspection services be reformed by assigning their tasks to independent inspection services, which should be given sufficient resources to operate effectively in all regions of Turkey and empowered to investigate any police detention facility at any time while closely cooperating with independent Turkish human rights NGOs; stresses that there is an urgent need to consolidate and strengthen the capacity of institutions promoting and enforcing human rights; welcomes Turkey’s cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Torture and calls on Turkey to maintain a standing invitation to all UN Human Rights Council special procedures;


31. Respects the sensitivities that exist in a country where the large majority are Sunni Muslims, but reminds Turkey of the important cultural and historic heritage handed down to it for safe-keeping by the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious Ottoman Empire; deplores the absence of progress in the area of freedom of religion since Parliament’s resolution of 28 September 2005; emphasises that the freedom of citizens to practise whichever religion or be part of whichever denomination they choose must extend to affording them similar legal and administrative opportunities to practise their religion, organise their communities, hold and administer community assets and train their clergy;


32. Roundly condemns the murder of Father Andrea Santoro, an Italian priest and missionary;


33. Reiterates its call on the Turkish authorities, expressed in its previous resolutions, to fulfil their commitments regarding freedom of religion and to take concrete steps to eradicate obstacles facing religious minorities as regards, in particular, their legal status, the training of clergy and their property rights (the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for example, has suffered the expropriation of 30 properties in recent times); calls for an immediate stop to all seizure and selling off by the Turkish authorities of properties belonging to religious communities; calls for the immediate re-opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary and the public use of the ecclesiastical title of the Ecumenical Patriarch; calls for the protection and recognition of the Alevis, including the recognition of Cem houses as religious centres; calls for the protection and recognition of the Yezidis and the establishment of Yezidi places of prayer, and for all religious education to be voluntary and to cover not only the Sunni religion, and for the establishment of an alternative subject, for those who do not wish to take part in religious instruction, in which values, standards and ethical issues are discussed; calls for the protection of the fundamental rights of all Christian minorities and communities in Turkey (e.g. the Greeks of Istanbul, Imvros and Tenedos);


34. Hopes that the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey will contribute to strengthening interreligious and intercultural dialogue between the Christian and Muslim world; 


35. Calls on the Turkish authorities to fully respect and implement all decisions handed down by, and to comply with the case-law of, the International Court of Justice (ICJ);


36. Insists on Turkey’s obligation to ensure that the protection of the fundamental rights of all religious communities is fully guaranteed; demands that a revised draft of the Law on Foundations must reflect recommendations made by the European Parliament and the Commission and must comply with European standards while satisfying the expectations of the multi-religious Turkish society;


37. Notes that an important discussion on headscarves is going on within Turkish society; points out that there are no European rules in this matter, but expresses its hope that a compromise will be found in Turkey on the wearing of headscarves by students at universities;


38. Reiterates its call on the Turkish authorities to apply the International Labour Organization’s standards for trade union rights, refrain from political interference in the functioning of trade unions, take them into account in the policy-making process and pay special attention to the participation of women in the labour market, and, while welcoming recent successes such as a project in Adana against child labour, calls for the introduction of further legislation prohibiting the employment of children; welcomes the latest assessment by the ILO, which cites Turkey as a successful example in the fight against child labour, and therefore welcomes the Turkish Government’s long-term aim of eradicating the worst forms of child labour by 2012; 


39. Welcomes the commencement of broadcasting in Kurdish – which may be regarded as an important step, provided that it is followed by a further lifting of all restrictions and constraints – including specialist programming produced by and for Kurdish communities, allowing the free exercise by the Kurds of their cultural and educational rights;


40. Recalls that the ECHR advised Turkey to prepare a new legal framework for conscientious objectors and reminds Turkey that the right to conscientious objection is recognised in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; therefore welcomes the initiative by the Ministry of Justice to legalise the right to conscientious objection and to propose the introduction of an alternative service in Turkey; is concerned that in a recent judgment of the Turkish military court a conscientious objector to military service was sentenced to imprisonment and that the military court openly declined to follow a relevant ruling of the ECHR; condemns the on-going persecution of journalists and writers who have expressed their support for the right of conscientious objection to military service;


41. Strongly supports the activities of Turkey’s democratic civil society, first and foremost the Turkish Human Rights Association and the Turkish Human Rights Foundation; recognises that democratic organisations of this kind do invaluable work, especially in monitoring the human rights situation;


42. Calls on the Commission to provide comprehensive and resolute support, especially from the financial point of view, for the activities of the above-mentioned democratic organisations representing Turkish civil society;


43. Strongly condemns the xenophobic and racist Talaat Pacha Committee, run by extreme right-wing organisations, for gravely infringing European principles, and the denialist demonstrations in Lyon and Berlin organised by those same organisations; calls on Turkey to abolish this committee and to end its activities;




pages 38-41 of full report

Click here for full report Pre-Accession Strategy (English)





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