Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
STRAW, MP, MR
CMG AND MR
180. And you would not oppose it?
(Mr Straw) Of course not. I have been to Turkey twice
already and I would count it as a very important ally and a very
important country with which we should develop already deep relations.
(Mr Macgregor) There have been regular exchanges between
senior officials on a whole range of issues: on defence, Mr Ricketts
himself, I think regularly, but there is also normal political
dialogue between us. There is also a lot of practical work between
us, for instance, through drugs liaison officers and indeed there
is a proposal that there should be an immigration liaison officer
which we hope will come to fruit this year. There is a lot of
practical co-operation between British and Turkish officials.
181. And Ms Stuart's comment on the language
competence of our officials?
(Mr Ricketts) We certainly attach great importance
to language competence in Turkey, as elsewhere. You will, I hope,
have seen that our current Ambassador could speak good Turkish,
that our Consul-General in Istanbul speaks Turkish, and we are
making sure that coming up through the ranks there is a sufficient
number of Turkish speakers preparing to become ambassador in due
182. We were concerned about the issue so perhaps
you could supply some chart of those who are Turkish speakers
at different stages of the Foreign Office.
(Mr Ricketts) Certainly.
183. Perhaps we can turn to discuss possible
Turkish accession in terms of technicalities, such as how many
constitutional amendments they have made, and it is 34, you tell
us. There are actually some very big issues at stake here. On
the one hand Turkey is an extraordinarily valuable ally, playing
a vital part in NATO, and is a bridge to the Middle East. We want
to tie it into Europe rather than see it floating in the other
direction, and I suspect those are the reasons that were driving
policy and trying to help Turkey accede to membership. On the
other side, I would suggest to you, there are equally very big
issues that people seem very reluctant to discuss, which are that
Turkey does have its feet outside the European mainstream tradition
in terms of law, of government, of the relationship between the
military and the civilian government. It has an enormous and very
fast-growing population. I think I am right in saying that the
total population will be about 100 million in 20 years' time which
would make it 20 or 25 per cent of the population of an enlarged
European Union. It has a GDP per head of way below the European
average. If this was a small country of eight million people or
so it would be easy. If it were Cyprusand I am not suggesting
Cyprus is quite so differentor a country of that size,
this is not a problem, I can cope with that, but can the European
Union really take in a country of that size with those differences
without being seriously unbalanced?
(Mr Straw) I think so, is the answer. We are into
the realm of speculation but I think the European Union has shown
itself to be an extraordinarily adaptable institution since it
started as a very narrow organisation with six Member States,
with two at the time hugely dominant, France and Germany. You
say that Turkey is outside the European mainstream tradition of
law, control of the armed forces and so on, with great respect
I do not agree with you. Turkey is different because it is an
Islamic country, although it is a secular Islamic country, but
if you think about the countries which are now coming into membership
or, for example, you think about the state that acceded into membership
of the European Union by a different route, namely East Germany,
people living in East Germany until 1990 had not enjoyed any idea
of democracy for getting on for 60 years, and the armed forces
were not subject to proper democratic control. That is also true
with different but similar experiences across Eastern Europe where
countries like Romania were hardly known as paradigms of democracy
before the War and did not have any serious sense of democracy
or the beginnings of democracy until the collapse of Communism
at the end of the 1980s. And that goes for one country after another.
I think Turkey is in a slightly different stage of development
but it is not that different from many other European countries.
You are furrowing your brow but we, in this country, forget just
how recent is the experience of democracy in most European countries.
We also forget that even in countries where democracy is now taken
for granted across the Western European Unionlet us leave
aside France and Germany and those counties under German occupation
during the Warsuch as Spain, Portugal and Greece, they
all had fascist dictatorships when I went to university, when
I left university and for some years after that, yet they are
now fully-functioning democracies. I think Turkey's provenance
is actually a far better one than those countries which were fascist
dictatorships within the lifetime of most people in this room.
So, with respect, I am more optimistic than you. It has a growing
population but the united Germany now has a figure of 80 million,
and my recollection of Turkey's population is that it is 64 million.
On GDP per head, in the speech to which again Sir John paid such
attention, he will recall there was a series of figures quoted23,
20, 4where I pointed out that the geographical area of
the European Union would increase by 23 per cent with the accession
of not Turkey but the current accession states, its population
would increase by 20 per cent but GDP increase by just 4 per cent.
In other words, the average GDP of countries like Poland, the
Czech Republic and so on, is one-fifth of the average GDP of the
current 15. When I got those figures, I simply did not believe
them, and had them reworked again and again. It is true that if
you use exchange rates and purchasing power parities you come
to a slightly narrower gap but it is still stark, so if the European
Union ends up by being able to cope with the accession of these
states, it will be able to cope with Turkey's accession.
184. You have stated your views on that but
I think you concentrated very much on democracy. I would have
said that countries like Spain and the eastern part of Germany
were very much part of the European mainstream in terms of government,
philosophy, religion, art, for hundreds and hundreds of years
whereas Turkey has not been. It is more different, far more different,
than any of them were. In the case of East Germany, there may
not have been very many people alive who remembered democracy
but it was certainly part of their being part of a greater Germany
and of Europe and part of their history and traditions along with
art, philosophy and everything else for hundreds of years.
(Mr Straw) You are on a slightly dangerous ground
here, certainly with art, and philosophy and science.
185. I am not saying it is better or worse,
(Mr Straw) No, but the whole point about Turkey is
that it is the fulcrum point between Asia and Europe. Do not forget,
it has a Christian heritage as well as an Islamic one, as you
will have seen; that is part of its history. If you think about
the young Turk movement, yes, they had to break away from what
we now describe as an authoritarian, non-democratic past, but
there are quite a number of countries around in Europe which had
to do that too, and have done it and did it rather late, and then
had a long period when, however much the idea of democracy tried
to flower, democracy was stalled. But if you think about the development
of the young Turk movement, and then of what Ataturk was able
to achieve, I think it is a pretty remarkable story, and it stands
scrutiny with many other European nations. You said that a lot
of these things were rather technical, with every accession state,
not just Turkey, we have to ensure the criteria are not just technical
but real because we do not do those countries any good or the
European Union any good if we say, "Because you have passed
a piece of paper which says that human rights will be respected,
we know by virtue of that fact they will be respected", we
have to be reassured that in reality, on the ground, they will
186. I understand that and I hear what you say,
I just think the European Union will have enormous difficulty
in absorbing Turkey in a way which will not be so with any other
country. I want to ask you though one final question, let us suppose
this process drags on for a very long timein one way or
another Turkey has difficulty meeting the criteria or circumstances
change which postpone the date of Turkey's accessiondo
you think that would damage our relationship with Turkey as a
very valuable ally in terms of both military and foreign policy
where we need it, for example some of the things it has done in
the Middle East recently? Do you think it might damage that relationship
or do you think we are so locked together in that relationship
that accession or not to the EU is irrelevant?
(Mr Straw) We are both very firm members of NATO,
and that applies to most but not all of the existing other 14
of the European Union. There are strong trade and investment ties
between the United Kingdom and Turkey, and, allowing for the dip
in trade with every country which occurred after their big economic
crises, trade links have been growing and, with luck, if Turkey's
application, as it were, ran out, those relationships would continue.
I very much hope and the United Kingdom Government hopes that
Turkey will become a full member of the European Union, and we
are giving every encouragement we can to them. The question of
rejection does not arise, it is a question of getting to a position
where Turkey is able to go through a pre-screening process and
then it takes part in the process that countries further advanced,
for example, Poland and the Czech Republic, are in now, and when
we get to a position when all the chapters are closed, all the
chapters are closed. Of course it is open to the democratic wishes
of the people of Turkey at any stage to decide they want to stop
that, but I suspect they will not.
187. Foreign Secretary, in response to Mr Maples
you said, and I quote, "Turkey is at a slightly different
stage of development from the other countries", is there
not this fundamental difference, the role of the military? Traditionally
the military in Turkey have been the guarantors of democracy,
they have intervened on three occasions effectively after a period
to restore democracy. It is an essential part of the Kemalist
tradition, which effectively underpins stability in that country.
Is there not therefore a potential conflict between the wish of
us to receive a modernised, appropriately qualified Turkey into
the Union, and the necessity of democratic control of the military,
which runs directly counter to the Kemalist tradition?
(Mr Straw) Mr Macgregor has just passed me one of
the constitutional changes which was agreed in October 2001, which
was to change the composition and functioning of the National
Security Council, altering the balance in favour of the civilian
government and emphasising its advisory rather than its policy-making
role. I have to say that since your Committee, Mr Anderson, spent
some time there, this is one of many areas where I would be very
interested to have your observations about whether you feel this
change, once implemented, will be sufficient.
188. The jury is very much out on that. One
can have paper changes but the real balance, the real possibility
of intervention, may still be there, and indeed the military,
a very proud institution in Turkey, highly respected, are essentially
an underpinning of that tradition which we want to continue.
(Mr Straw) Indeed. Do you want to say something?
(Mr Macgregor) Really just to talk of the slight irony,
that of course in that role they have pushed Turkey into a more
(Mr Macgregor)and in a way into a shape which
is more like the country that we would like to deal with. But
changes nevertheless are on the way, and those constitutional
changes of October last year are only the first of what is anticipated
to be a series of changes.
190. May I ask you, Foreign Secretary, can you
envisage a time within the EU negotiation timescale when the army
in Turkey will have a role analogous to the role of the army in
other countries of the Union?
(Mr Straw) I think that is almost explicit in the
constitutional change which they have agreed to, so the answer
to that must be yes.
Sir John Stanley
191. Foreign Secretary, in paragraph 22 of your
paper there is one of these wonderfully fork-tongued constructed
sentences setting out the Government's position on the accession
of Cyprus in relation to whether Cyprus comes in divided or united.
The sentence reads: "The UK strongly believes that it is
in the best interests of all concerned that a reunited Cyprus
should join the EU, but supports the conclusions of the Helsinki
European Council, which stated that a settlement is not a pre-condition
for Cypriot accession."
The question I would like to put to you is this: can the Committee
conclude, at least from the second part of that sentence, that
the British Government will not contemplate a delay to the accession
of Cyprus as it is now, ie divided, on the grounds there has been
an apparent resumption of discussions between the two halves of
Cyprus and that some form of settlement and negotiations are under
(Mr Straw) Actually I thought it was
pretty clear. I must say in terms of Government gobbledegook I
do not think it is even in the second division, if I may say so.
However, our position is literally what was agreed at Helsinki
in December 1999, and it is worth me reading that out. "The
European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate
the accession of Cyprus to the European Union." I depart
from the quotation there to say that I think everybody understands
and accepts that, that it would be better if there were a political
settlement. The text then goes on, "If no settlement has
been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the
Council's decision on accession will be made without the above
being a pre-condition. In this the Council will take account of
all relevant factors." I think that is really all one can
say about this at the moment. That is the position, it is not
a pre-condition but we would prefer it if there was a settlement.
192. That does not answer my question. The question
I asked you was, can you assure the Committee that if there should
be a resumption of apparently substantive negotiations towards
a settlement, the fact such negotiations are taking place will
not be used by the British Government as a ground for delaying
the accession of Cyprus in its present divided state?
(Mr Straw) I think it is an answer to the question,
with great respect to you, Sir John, because I have just said
that we support the position set out here, which is that we want
to see a political settlement, but what happens if no settlement
has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations,
which are separate in any case, and I see no suggestion that accession
negotiations should be delayed by the negotiations on a political
settlement. "The Council's decision on accession will be
made without the above being a pre-condition". Are we proposing
to change the Helsinki conclusions? No.
193. Could I put the question around the other
way. Is the British Government's position that the accession of
Cyprus in its present divided state should take place at the earliest
possible opportunity, assuming Cyprus meets the requirements of
the chapters, regardless of whether or not settlement negotiations
may be in train at the time?
(Mr Straw) Our position on Cyprus' accession is that
Cyprus should be treated in the same way as anybody else in accordance
with that text that I read out earlier from Copenhagen from June
1993. So that sets out the template. Cyprus, as you will be aware,
has closed more chapters than any other accession applicant. That
process continues on a track which is separate from negotiations,
if any, about a political settlement. That is where we are.
194. Do you envisage any other EU Member States
might seek to delay the accession of Cyprus on the grounds that
settlement discussions are in progress?
(Mr Straw) I am not aware of any. Whether some have
tried I cannot say, I can only speak for the British Government.
195. The Republic of Cyprus is a market economy,
a fully functioning democracy, which is in the lead in terms of
the closing of chapters, therefore it is likely to be very much
in the first wave of those being accepted. If a divided island
of Cyprus were to be taken into the Community, the Union, what
is your judgment of the effect on opinion in Turkey?
(Mr Straw) Everybody in Turkey I have ever met who
takes an interest in these things understands that Helsinki raises
the possibility of a divided Cyprus, or part of Cyprus essentially,
being admitted to the European Union, that is just a reality,
it could happen, it is there in the texts. I do not presume to
speak for the state of public opinion or governmental opinion
in Turkey about that, and you may have greater insights than I
196. Some of our interlocutors have used words
like "catastrophic" in terms of Turkish relations with
the Union. Is that a view that you would take?
(Mr Straw) I do not presume to speak for them. We
would have to make sure that such an apocalyptic vision did not
occur. I think everybody is aware of this, not the apocalypse
or the catastrophe but the fact that the Republic of Cyprus, the
geographical island of Cyprus, could be admitted to the European
Union is a reality and it is a possibility and they have got to
work around that.
(Mr Ricketts) It would clearly be a much less satisfactory
outcome for Turkey, but also for the EU and for Cyprus, than the
accession of Cyprus reunited at the end of successful settlement
negotiations. That is what we are bending all of our efforts to
achieve in the remaining months.
197. You must surely accept that there would
be very negative consequences for Turkey's relationship with the
(Mr Straw) Turkey would have to make different decisions
about what it then did. It would not stop its request to become
a full member of the European Union. Mr Ricketts said, and it
is implicit too in the conclusions of Helsinki, it is a less than
satisfactory outcome, less than the outcome we want, but it may
be the outcome that is inevitable if there cannot be a political
settlement of Cyprus.
198. And in the happy event of an agreement
between the parties some time after the discussions between the
leaders of the two communities, President Clerides and Mr Denktash,
would you expect the Union to be able to respond very speedily
to prepare the north of the island for accession?
(Mr Straw) I think they could respond speedily, it
depends what was agreed. What I am not going to do, with great
respect to this Committee, is get into speculating about the current
state of discussion which is taking place between the different
parties in Cyprus, between Clerides and Denktash, on which your
question is based.
(Mr Macgregor) The EU has said that it will accommodate
a UN settlement, in other words that it will be flexible about
it. It has already indicated a degree of flexibility.
199. Can we turn to the issue of human rights.
It was quite clear on our visit to Turkey that quite a number
of legislative changes have been made and it would be very easy
to gain the impression that these changes are significant also
on the ground. The evidence we heard was that laws have been changed
when it comes to treatment in police stations but very little
seems to have changed in relation to provisions for prosecution,
torture, and when you look at the evidence of how many prosecutions
are successful that is not happening. I would be interested to
hear to what extent the Foreign Office is monitoring not only
what happens at the official level but what actually happens on
the ground and to what extent you work with NGOs and other organisations
to really determine what the reality of the protection of human
rights in Turkey is?
(Mr Straw) I will ask officials if they have got anything
to add, but if you look at paragraph 24 of the memorandum
that we submitted you will see that we really made a similar point
to yours that what matters is what happens on the ground. Obviously
changing the text is a precondition, it is necessary but by no
means sufficient. We have got a large number of human rights projects
with Turkey and examples from 2001 include translation into Turkish
of the FCO Handbook on Prevention of Torture, a training programme
for senior prison administrators, independent monitoring of prisons
in Turkey, development of prisoner education and recreation programmes,
training for the Jandarma, who are the military police, in custody,
detention and public order policing, and forensic science training
for the Jandarma. Also this year we are seeing the launch of the
Human Rights Dialogue at senior official level between the United
Kingdom and Turkey.
(Mr Macgregor) I am the leader of the
Human Rights Dialogue on the British side and we are intending
to arrange a first meeting probably in May of this year. Before
going forward into that meeting we shall be consulting the Human
Rights Sub-Committee of the House and also NGOs to ask what points
they make. To go back to your own point, Ms Stuartdo we
try to keep in touch with the situation on the ground. The answer
is we certainly do and, indeed, I think it was through us that
you were able to talk to the NGOs you did talk to in Istanbul.
We go to hearings where there are leading human rights cases,
we are in court whenever we can be. We also, I think, learn a
great deal through police exchanges by having our police in Turkey,
by them coming here. No-one is pretending that this is going to
change things in a night but I think it is making some real progress.
Similarly, the booklet on torture translated into Turkish, it
will not itself prevent torture immediately but it is a start.
6 See Evidence, pp. Ev 74-Ev 75. Back
See Evidence, p. Ev 58. Back
See Evidence, p. Ev 58. Back