Turkey, Oral Evidence to the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Wednesday 13 March 2002
OPENING STATEMENT BY THE FOREIGN SECRETARY
I am delighted that the Foreign Affairs Committee
is undertaking this inquiry into Turkeyan important country,
where significant British interests are at stake. I am especially
glad to be having this discussion with you after your visits to
Ankara and Istanbulwhich went well, I gather. Turkey is
a country which repays visiting. I have been there twice in the
last five months.
Turkey has long been a serious ally in a difficult
neighbourhood. A member of NATO, she has provided practical support
to our Northern Iraq policyUK and US aircraft engaged in
Operation Northern Watch operate from Incirlik. And she is a staunch
ally in the coalition against terrorism. If Turkey is able to
take over in Kabul as lead nation in ISAF later this year, that
will be just the latest illustration of the practical partnership
we have with Turkey. Turkey is our ally, a partner and a friend.
It is a partnership which is becoming easier
to operate with each step forward Turkey takes in its ambitious
programme of political and economic reform. Those reforms are
often debated in the context of Turkey's candidature for membership
of the European Uniona candidature which the UK strongly
supports. But I hopeduring your discussions in Ankara and
Istanbulyou will have gained the impression that Turkey's
"National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis"
is also indigenous. That is our aim. To bring together Turkey's
long-held sense of a European vocation, with forces for modernisation
and reform which spring from a developing civil society.
The clearest measurements of such development
lie in the realm of human rights, to which the UK and EU devote
considerable attention. There are encouraging signs that Turkey's
reforms are beginning to develop a self-sustaining momentum. On
the legislative side, at least, the government has kept up a brisk
pace, with a raft of constitutional reforms last October, followed
up in February by a package of new laws to implement those changes.
These are taking Turkey into the heart of the matter, with tough
choices about freedom of expression and national identity. It
is generating fierce debate within the country, as is natural.
As is democratic. I am glad you had the chance to meet a wide
spectrum of opinion on the progress these reforms are making.
Doubtless some spoke of a glass half-empty, others of a glass
half-full. But none, I should imagine, sought to portray a society
at a standstill. And thatI submitis to Turkey's
credit; and justifies UK support for Turkey's EU candidature,
to be assessed against the objective Copenhagen criteria. In this
respect, the EU is applying the same standards to Turkey as have
been applied to all other candidates.
That is the strategy, and UK policy isin
a nutshellto find ways to make that strategy work. Implementation
is crucial. Turkey's Constitutional amendments are important,
but they need to be translatedto take just one exampleinto
humane procedures in every police station, throughout that vast
country. As you saw, our Embassy and Consulate-General report
regularly on human rights. They have an extensive network of contacts,
and a number of active ways to intervenechiefly through
project work, on which we spent £1.6 million last year. I
gather that the Committee met both Government and NGO representatives
who have received such practical supportand that you heard
how this was appreciated.
Turkey must also meet the economic criteria.
Not enough is made of this sometimes. I say that because the economic
criteria are important in their own right, because they are part
and parcel of the stronger civil society which Turkey is building,
and because the progress Turkey has made to stabilise its economy
and liberalise its markets is often inadequately publicised. I'm
glad that you met Kemal Dervish, Economy Minister, during your
visit. And I'm glad he was in Oxford last week, spreading the
word about his reforms. These have earned the support of the international
community, for example through the IMF's recent $16 billion Stand
Our agenda with Turkey includes Cyprus. This
has recently entered a more optimistic phase, though everything
is still to play foras Lord Hannay illustrated to your
Chairman yesterday. We welcome and support the process of face-to-face
talks between the two leaders, and the role played by the Special
Representative of the UN Secretary General. We firmly believe
that a just and durable settlement is achievable within the timeframe
they themselves have set. And thatwhile not a preconditionthis
can enable the accession of a reunited island to the European
Union. All of us, but Turkey in particular, stand to gain a lot
from such a result.
Last but not least, we are working with Turkey
to tackle the drugs menace. Most of the heroin arriving in the
UK has transited Turkey. Much more needs to be done to stop this.
But co-operation with law enforcement agencies in Turkey is improving.
We have invested heavily: we have six liaison officers in Turkey,
tackling the drugs trade and other manifestations of organised
crime. Here too, we see a way to harness Turkey's "European
vocation", by finding ways to involve Turkey more in Europe's
expanding Justice and Home Affairs agenda.
In closing, may I say once again how much I
welcome the attention you are paying to these serious issues.
It is striking how many foreign policy and other British interests
are at stake in Turkey. I look forward to your questions andnaturallywill
respond, in due course, to the conclusions you reach.
13 March 2002