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Ian Hudghton
Scottish National Party
Member of the European Parliament

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Press Releases
22 September
Europe must stand firm on Turkish reform

Euro-MPs speak out ahead of Turkish PM's EU visit

Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru Euro-MPs have urged Europe's political leaders not to give ground on the strict conditions required before Turkey will be allowed to begin negotiations on joining the EU. The Scottish and Welsh Euro-MPs were speaking ahead of tomorrow's (Thursday) visit to the European Parliament in Brussels by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Erdogan will meet the leader's of Parliament's political groups as well as the Parliament's President. The European Commission is due to publish a report on October 6 on Turkey's progress towards meeting criteria for talks to join the EU.

The Turkish Parliament had been considering reforms to the country's penal code in order to meet the conditions set down by the EU, but this was surrounded in controversy last week when a clause criminalising adultery was included. In addition, SNP and Plaid Cymru want assurances that Turkey will also soften its attitude to the disadvantaged Kurdish minority, recognising their right to education in the Kurdish language and the right to self determination for the Kurdish people.

Speaking from Brussels, Ian Hudghton MEP (Scottish National Party) said:

"The European Parliament has to remain firm in insisting that Turkey makes real progress on democratic reforms before we can begin talks on their membership of the EU. In principle, Turkey's eventual membership of the EU would be good for Europe and good for Turkey - but it is now up to the Turkish government to prove that they can take the necessary steps to make this possible.

We have serious concerns about the Turkish regime's treatment of the Kurdish people, and want an assurance that their political, cultural and linguistic rights will be respected. Reports suggest that some 40% of the Kurdish population are illiterate - just one of the legacies of an education system that fails to promote teaching in the Kurdish language. The Turkish government must respect and defend the human rights of all of the people that live within its borders if it hopes one day to join the EU."

Plaid Cymru's Jill Evans MEP added:

"Many of us were deeply concerned that Turkey had suspended the programme of reforms to its penal code needed to satisfy the criteria set down for EU membership negotiations. We still need to see substantial progress from the Turkish government before negotiations can start, particularly in terms of better protection for women's rights and a genuine commitment to equality of opportunity.

It would be totally unacceptable for Europe to give Turkey a blank cheque, opening the door for negotiations before reforms have begun. It has to be the other way round, first we need to see real progress on reform, and then we can start negotiations."

Alyn Smith MEP (Scottish National Party) commented:

"We would welcome the eventual accession of Turkey to the European Union but we are now entering make or break time for the Turkish government. Mr Erdogan must understand that he cannot expect Europe to bend the rules for Turkey. There are clear reforms that have to be made before talks on membership can begin and this must remain the European Union's firm, non-negotiable position. We also want clear assurances that Turkey will act to defend and protect the human rights of the Kurdish people and safeguard their right to an education in their own language."

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