Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission (at 21h46, 05/05/2009). Madam President, I am afraid we may have the same passion in this discussion on democracy in Turkey as we had on the wine reform during the second half of Arsenal v Manchester United, which is a snapshot of Europe in 2009.

This is more serious, because this is a very serious matter and indeed a very substantive issue concerning democratic development in Turkey. First of all I am deeply saddened and shocked by the massacre that took place in Bilge in Turkey last night, killing 44 people. I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims and I trust that the murderers will be brought to justice as soon as possible. There is no moral or ethical justification of this kind of horrible attack.

Let me also express my personal, and the Commission’s, sorrow on the death of nine Turkish soldiers and a gendarme as a consequence of the terrorist attacks last week. Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives.

We condemn terrorism and support Turkey in its fight against terrorism. The PKK is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. Between 14 and 18 April more than 200 officials and members of the Democratic Society Party have been arrested in a police operation throughout Turkey, and in particular in its south‑eastern region.

We understand that charges brought against them include being a member of a terrorist organisation, although a formal indictment is still pending. We expect to see the indictment finalised as part of a transparent and objective judicial process.

The Commission cannot interfere in ongoing legal cases. However, our approach is clear: while we support the fight against terrorism, we have consistently stressed that it must be conducted by respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular as regards the freedom of expression and association.

Political pluralism is an integral part of any democracy. The Turkish Grand National Assembly is today largely representative of the country’s political diversity. The Democratic Society Party has been contributing to pluralism in Turkey, and its political legitimacy was confirmed by the results of the recent local elections in March.

At the same time, the people of south‑east Turkey need peace, they need stability and prosperity rather than further violence or confrontation. Condemning the use of force and violence is a duty for all parties involved. All must exercise restraint and be committed to peaceful means and peaceful means only. This is also an integral part of any democracy.

We will continue to follow up closely the developments of this case. It is essential that the principles of democracy and the rule of law, including the rights of defendants, will prevail.

The Commission also continues to follow closely the closure case against the DTP currently pending in the Constitutional Court. In this context, the current rules governing the closure of political parties in Turkey are not in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and with European practices, as was recently stated in an opinion of the Venice Commission. We have requested Turkey to take such an opinion fully into account and to reflect it in the Turkish constitutional and legislative framework in the form of revisions to this effect.

To conclude, we continue to encourage the Turkish authorities to address the problems of the south‑east of the country and its people, in order to enhance the economic, social and cultural opportunities of all Turkish citizens irrespective of their ethnic, religious or linguistic origins.

Under the Copenhagen political criteria, Turkey is expected to ensure cultural diversity and promote cultural rights of all its citizens, as set out in our Accession Partnership. In this context, the establishment of a new TRT channel broadcasting in the Kurdish language is a step forward. It shows a change of mentality and I want to encourage the Turkish authorities to take further steps in this direction.

We will continue to monitor the situation in the south‑east and will report in our upcoming progress report. That is an essential part of the process of democratisation of Turkey. (end)

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