Eu/turkey : Ankara Criticised on Press Freedom

Article excerpt

A "balanced report." That was the reaction of Egemen Bagis, the Turkish minister for EU relations, to the European Commission's annual report on Turkey, published on 14 October. The Commission denounced attacks on the freedom for the press and unions, children's rights and sexual equality.

It showed particular concern over the large fines (over a billion euro) imposed on the private Dogan Yayin Holding (DYH) media group for unpaid taxes. "If a tax fine is worth the annual turnover of a company it's quite a strong sanction and it may not only be a tax sanction but it seems like a political sanction," said Olli Rehn, the commissioner for enlargement. "There are too many provisions in the penal code that could be used to restrict free expression," he added.

The Commission also lamented "little progress" in terms of political and constitutional reforms, the fights against corruption, free supply of services and company law.

REPORT "SOFT" ON CYPRUS

On relations with Cyprus, the report notes the absence of progress on the opening of Turkish ports and airports since 2006. The EU had decided to freeze eight of the 33 chapters of negotiations (see box) as a result of Ankara's refusal to do this. But the Commission did not recommend new sanctions, limiting itself to declaring it "urgent that Turkey fulfil its obligations".

The EU executive is clearly keen not to disrupt delicate talks, initiated in September 2008 and overseen by the United Nations, intended to result in a unified Cyprus. The division of the island since 1974 is an "anachronism," in the eyes of Rehn, "20 years after the end of the Berlin Wall".

ARMENIA AND KURDISH RIGHTS

The report, however, commends the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey, two rival countries with a shared bloody history, which signed a historic accord in Switzerland, on 10 October, sealing their reconciliation. …