Turkey's candidacy for EU membership, agreed in December 1999, is the focus of this Report. Prejudices, which are particular to Turkey's candidacy, shape attitudes both in the EU and in Turkey. Turkey's candidacy is welcome in principle, and concerns within the EU about cultural and religious difference, and longstanding historical animosity, need to be set aside. On the Turkish side, there is a need to overcome mistrust of Europe and to encourage more widespread understanding of the EU. Turkey's size and large population and its borders with several countries of concern give rise to reasonable hesitation within the
Turkey must meet objective political criteria before it can begin to negotiate for accession. Despite a number of legislative reforms, the human rights situation on the ground in Turkey has improved little. The prevalence of torture can only be tackled by changing attitudes and by improving forensic skills. Issues of minority rights, freedom of expression and capital punishment are highly politicised. Outsiders must exercise great sensitivity when demanding reform in these areas, which is nonetheless essential. The role of the military in domestic Turkish politics has not always been negative, but it is incompatible with EU membership. It does not bode well for Turkey's prospects of EU membership that this role is unlikely to change substantially in the short term.
Financial assistance to Turkey from the EU has been substantially less generous than that to other candidates, and needs to be reassessed. Turkey's inclusion in the Convention on the Future of Europe is welcome.
The idea that reform can be encouraged by setting a date for accession negotiations is problematic. A settlement of the Cyprus problem before the end of 2002 would be highly beneficial to Turkey's hopes of EU accession.
Turkey is an extremely valuable ally in the ongoing war against terrorism, which is likely to assume an important role in maintaining security in Afghanistan, but which is deeply concerned about the possibility of a US military intervention in Iraq. Turkey has little in common politically with its Asian neighbours, but it has a limited role to play in bringing together Europe and the Islamic world.
The United Kingdom is in a particularly good position to encourage progress in Turkey's candidacy. British visa operations in Istanbul have been subject to unacceptable delays, but these are now gradually being tackled. Ways of improving British-Turkish understanding include the possibility of a visit to Turkey by the Prime Minister.