Strasbourg, 20 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The strong actions against Turkey taken by the European Parliament yesterday in Strasbourg are the latest, and clearest, signs of Ankara's declining fortunes in the eyes of the parliament's parent body, the 15-nation European Union (EU).
By a large majority vote (319 to 23, with 20 abstentions), the EU's parliament has deprived Turkey -- or at least delayed delivery for the foreseeable future -- of close to $500 million in direct aid it was due to receive from the union over the next five years. Those funds were pledged by the EU when it signed a customs union agreement with Turkey last year. But so far, Ankara has not received any of the money.
During its Aegean Sea mini-crisis with Turkey in the spring, Greece -- an EU member state -- vetoed the disbursement of customs-union funds to Turkey. That meant that the $69 million Turkey was due to receive last year under the accord was never handed over. Now, the European Parliament -- as has been its right since the full ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in late 1993 -- has totally frozen all five years of the customs-union funds.
In addition, the parliament called on the EU's Executive Commission to block immediately most appropriations set aside for Turkey under a general aid-to-Mediterranean-nations program known by its acronym as MEDA. The parliament allowed some exceptions clearly earmarked for projects intended to promote democracy, human rights and civil society in Turkey.
The money involved in possible MEDA grants over the same five-year period can only be estimated, but it too should be calculated in hundreds of millions of dollars. And there is little doubt that the EU Executive Commission, though less outspokenly critical of Turkey than the EU's parliament, will not contravene the decision.
The parliament's strong actions yesterday were reinforced by its even stronger words of criticism of Turkey. The parliament adopted a resolution "deploring" continuing human-rights violations by Turkey --notably, the imprisonment of three former Turkish parliamentarians of Kurdish origin. The resolution said the parliament was "appalled" at the recent killings of two unarmed Greek Cypriots by Turkish soldiers on the island. And it "demanded" that the Turkish Government clearly explain to the EU its position in four areas: human rights, democratization, the Cyprus question and the Kurdish problem.
The parliament's patent anger with the Turkish government is based on its sense of Ankara having failed to live up to its promises made at the time it signed the customs union more than a year ago. In the debate that preceded the vote on the resolution, the leader of the Socialist group, the parliament's largest party, spoke of her sense of "betrayal" by Turkish officials.
Pauline Green, a British Labor party member, went on to remind her colleagues that this was not the first time the EU had been "deceived" by the Turkish Government. In the past, she said, Turkish failures to live up to promises had delayed the signing of the customs union accord more than once. Now, she added, in effect the same kind of Turkish behavior has effectively frozen the accord before it could be implemented.
There is another, perhaps even more fundamental reason for the parliamentarians' concern over recent Turkish government behavior. This has to do with the installation early this summer of an Islamic-led government in Ankara, headed by Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, and Turkey's apparent turn away from its links to the West ever since.
One commission spokesman -- who requested his name not be used -- put it this way yesterday to the RFE/RL correspondent in Strasbourg:
"Of course, the EU increasingly fears the Erbakan government's moving even further away from the West," he said. "But in a way it comforts many EU officials and parliamentarians in their long-time belief that Turkey never really belonged inside the Union, or even in close association with it."