House of Commons Debates for 18 Jan 2000 (pt 1)
FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS
The Secretary of State was asked--
Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South):
If he will make a statement on Turkey's EU candidature status. [104187R]
Minister of State for Foreign and
Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Keith Vaz):
We welcome the Helsinki European Council's decision that Turkey is a
candidate for EU accession. Turkey is an important partner for Britain and
the EU, a NATO ally which provided vital support in the Gulf and Kosovo
crises, and a major market for UK exporters. The UK has been working hard
for a more constructive relationship between the EU and Turkey. We have
now secured that. Turkey will enjoy all the benefits of other candidates,
including financial assistance. For its part, Turkey must meet the same
criteria for accession as other candidates. In particular, it will need to
improve its record on human rights and protection of minorities before
accession negotiations can begin.
Does my hon. Friend agree that Turkey's candidature status represents a
historical juncture for Turkey and the EU? Does he also agree that this
valued ally and important geo-political country will now face both
challenges and opportunities, and that it will have to deal sensitively
with both internal issues and external perceptions? Will he join me in
welcoming Mr. Ecevit's decision to await the views of the European Court
of Human Rights before referring the case of Abdullah Ocalan to his
I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend does as chairman of the
British-Turkey parliamentary group, which has been helpful in cementing relationships between our
countries. He is right to say that this is a historic moment for Turkey.
We were delighted that it achieved candidate status without conditions. He
is also right that it is important that Turkey considers its human rights
record. The decisions to refer the case of Mr. Ocalan to the European
Court of Human Rights and to suspend the death penalty are welcome, and we
hope that the Turkish Government will respect the court's decision.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury):
What positive help do the Government intend to give Turkey to help with
the reforms necessary for accession negotiations to begin?
Turkey will get all the support that it needs, as will all applicant
candidates. At the moment, we give 375 million euros through the European
Union's NEDA programme. We also intend to ensure that we help Turkey to
prioritise the various difficulties that it will face in the future, so
that it can begin its negotiations as soon as it meets the Copenhagen
criteria on political and economic issues.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North):
The Minister will be well aware that many people are deeply concerned
about the news of Turkey's candidature, given the Turkish occupation of
the abuse of human rights in Turkey and the situation of the Kurdish
people. Will he assure the House that the British Government will spend no
further money on the Ilusu dam project until a full environmental impact
assessment has been made of the entire project and consideration has been
given to the effects on the villagers in the area and on the Kurdish
people whose land is about to be flooded for the benefit of big
business--apparently supported by several western Governments?
I know of my hon. Friend's interest in those matters. He is a passionate
supporter of the Kurdish people and he will know that my right hon. Friend
the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has made it clear that he is
minded to grant export credit to Balfour Beatty, provided that various
assurances--such as those my hon. Friend mentioned--are met. When those
assurances are forthcoming, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will make
the right decision.