STATEMENTS of Mr Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargment

European Parliament – Strasbourg : Formal debate on “Dialogue for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey” (6th February, 2013)

(initial statement & final remarks)

(INITIAL STATEMENT) Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, throughout the years we have consistently underlined that finding a solution to the Kurdish issue and to all the problems in the South-East of Turkey requires the widest possible contribution of all democratic forces and an open and frank public discussion that should be conducted in full respect of the basic fundamental freedoms.

That is why the ongoing discussions are of such historic importance for Turkey. They constitute a great window of opportunity for the ending of terrorism that would hopefully pave the way for an overall solution to the Kurdish issue. The fact that the process has met the support of all stakeholders, notably the opposition, and has been welcomed by important parts of Turkish society gives us more reasons to be optimistic and to believe that the process is truly result-oriented. A successful outcome would not only put an end to a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past three decades: it would solve many outstanding problems in Turkey and play a crucial role in fostering political and constitutional reforms; it would be a strong incentive for the adoption of the Fourth Judicial Reform Package, actually addressing the key problems related to freedom of expression and other fundamental rights; and it would facilitate the redrafting of the constitution with respect to the rights of citizenship.

In this regard, a solution of this issue would have a strong impact on the accession process of Turkey as such, as it would further consolidate the role of the European Union as a benchmark for reforms in Turkey. In turn, putting the accession negotiations back on the right track would be a strong incentive for supporting a solution for this issue and the reform process in general.

In the meantime, I welcome steps such as the recent adoption of the law allowing for the defence of Kurds in Kurdish as an important confidence-building measure in the context of the ongoing talks.

Regarding the redrafting of the constitution, we have understood that it has entered a critical stage. While all parties are to be congratulated for the constructive attitude so far, now is the time for results in the spirit of compromise, and I cannot underline enough the importance of keeping up the participatory process.

Finally, a few words on the tragic events which occurred in Paris last month. We are aware of the distress this triple murder has provoked. We are confident that ongoing investigations by the French authorities will shed full light on this crime. We encourage all parties involved not to let this horrible incident or other possible provocations in the future distract them from their goal to achieve peace.

It is crucial that the European Union as a whole conveys its strong and clear support for these ongoing efforts. It remains equally important that we coordinate our messages of support to Turkey. The Commission stands ready to assist where it can, including in using our financial assistance under our instrument for pre-accession support to support a post-conflict and reconciliation strategy and to expand further the socio-economic development and the political and cultural rights of citizens of Kurdish origin.

(FINAL REMARKS) Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, can I make four observations, as this debate is reaching its final stages? First, on the point which has already been mentioned a couple of times, I can confirm that our progress report – and this has been the case for a number of years now – is translated every year by our delegation into Turkish and is put on the website of our delegation.

The second point I would like to make is that I was happy to note in my meeting yesterday evening with a representative of the BDP party – and I saw some of them observing our discussion – that Kurdish politicians and civil society remain fully committed to a successful outcome of these talks. I can only encourage them to maintain this constructive, solution-oriented approach and to resist any provocative action aimed at distracting them from the pursuit of a peaceful solution. We discussed with them what the Commission could do to advance the rights of the Kurds, and as many of you actually referred to this, I would like to say the following.

On the one hand the Commission monitors the compliance of Turkey with the political criteria, of which respect for the rights of people belonging to minorities is an important component. We raise issues of concern on a regular basis with the Turkish authorities and assist them where we can in their reforms. I would mention the work done in the working group for the chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights (Chapter 23) under the positive agenda, in which we are working with Turkey on, notably, the adoption of a human rights action plan. I am looking forward to making this chapter available to the Member States as an open chapter, so that we can benefit fully from its transformative power.

We also have a number of projects financed by the pre-accession instrument in South-East Turkey, such as Project M for the empowerment of women, a training project for children on mines and other waste products of conflict, and a project in support of local research on disappearances, unsolved murders and mass graves in South-East Turkey. But we also have programmes targeting the environment and transport infrastructures.

We run projects worth over EUR 400 million which benefit, directly or indirectly, the South-East, and obviously, should a wider effort be requested to support a post-conflict and reconciliation strategy, the Commission would be ready to support this, including through financial assistance.