My government has delivered

Posted in Europe , Asia | 15-Dec-03 | Author: Abdullah Gul| Source: International Herald Tribune

Turkish reforms

ANKARA - The current majority government in Turkey established by the Justice and Development Party has recently concluded its first year in office. The across-the-board reforms that the Turkish government has set its imprint on during the course of this past year alone speaks volumes.

without default on its pledge to realize political reforms of an historic nature designed to upgrade and enhance democratic standards in Turkey. We accomplished this major task with the strong support of all segments of Turkish society, including the opposition in Parliament, the media, nongovernmental institutions and the traditional institutions of the country.

These reforms have harmonized Turkish legislation with that of the European Union across a broad range of areas from fundamental rights and freedoms to civilian-military relations; from the abolition of the death penalty to full transparency and accountability of public expenses, and from religious to cultural rights. Turkey has also become party to the European Conventions on corruption. New legislation in the areas of access to information and public personnel ethics are further steps toward greater transparency.

Political reform in Turkey has been complemented by a similar process in the economic sector. Economic stability has increased with the continuation of the disinflation process, whereby inflation rates have fallen to their lowest level in years. Further incentives have been introduced to facilitate foreign direct investment in Turkey.

In foreign policy, relations with neighboring Greece, Bulgaria and Syria, trouble-ridden for decades, have excelled in all field. We seek to contribute to stability in the Caucasus through the regular meetings I hold with my colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia. As one of the rare countries with excellent relations with both Palestine and Israel, Turkey is in a unique position to constructively contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East. Turkey provides the main artery of humanitarian assistance to Iraq. We will continue to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq and the restitution of political stability in this country.

My government strongly encourages the resumption of talks between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots following the elections to be held in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the coming days.

Our vision for the future is one in which Turkey, Greece and the island of Cyprus will constitute a firm foundation of the EU in the region as well as a pillar of stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that these policies have been pursued resolutely despite the ramifications of a war in neighboring Iraq, the residue of an economic crisis of last years and the global threat of the phenomenon of terrorism.

It is indeed gratifying to see that there is a growing awareness within Europe of the strategic, economic and cultural depth and breadth that Turkey would bring to the EU with its membership. Turkey's economic potential and human resources are increasingly regarded as the assets that they are, rather than a burden, by a great number of European statesmen, businessmen and intellectuals. It is also widely acknowledged that Turkey has contributed to the development of the European Security and Defense Policy.

The upcoming European Council meeting in Brussels will represent an important milestone on the way to the decisive rendezvous in December 2004. My government rightly anticipates a clear and positive message from Brussels that will offer further encouragement for Turkey.

Next year, the European Council is expected to adopt a decision to commence accession negotiations with Turkey without delay. The initiation of negotiations will represent the beginning of a next phase in the process of accession.

Turkey is the living proof that a Muslim society can be governed in a democratic, accountable and transparent manner in accordance with European norms, including rule of law and gender equality. scend geography, religions and cultures.The accomplishments of the Turkish government are a call to both the West and the East.

The writer is deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Turkey.