ANKARA - ''No progress has been recorded in religious freedom in Turkey'', said European Parliament's Turkey Rapporteur Camiel Eurlings.

Participants discussed EU and its virtues, freedom of expression as well as respect towards religious and cultural values during the first session of the 56th meeting of Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission (JPC) at Turkish Parliament on Thursday.

Rapporteur Eurlings claimed that there is a slow down in reforms on freedom of expression and religion in Turkey. Stressing the importance of these freedoms, Eurlings said that Turkey should attain better standards in freedom of expression and religion to become a full member of the EU.

There are ''acute problems in religious freedoms in Turkey'', he said. Eurlings added that ''Turkey has not recorded any progress in religious freedom but quite the contrary...''

Noting that complaints continue about procurement of property by minorities, as well as (in the opening of) Heybeliada Seminary and minority foundations, Eurlings said that officials continue to seize and sell properties. He informed that the number of properties which have been seized increased to 30. He gave orphanage in Buyukada (Istanbul) as an example.

Eurlings said that they welcome alliance of civilizations initiative which was launched jointly by Turkish and Spanish prime ministers, adding that they are ready to support this project.

Noting that there are some debates about Turkey within the EU, Eurlings said that if Turkey opens Heybeliada Seminary and restitutes churches, it will get an impressive support especially from France and Germany.

Eurlings stated that there are some doubts about articles No. 301, 305, 177, 188 and 206 of new Turkish Penal Code (TCK). He said that cases against Orhan Pamuk and Hirant Dink affected Turkey's image negatively.

Regarding Anti-Terrorism draft law, Eurlings said that fight against terrorism should not limit freedom of expression. -ONUR OYMEN-

On the other hand, Turkey-EU JPC member and Turkish Republican People's Party (CHP) parliamentarian Onur Oymen said, ''PKK terrorist organization staged an attack on a bus yesterday and injured children. You are wrong if you just think that PKK launches such attacks to extend period of broadcasts in Kurdish (from 1.5 hours to 24 hours). Nothing can be a reason to kill innocent people. Condemning PKK is not enough.''

''European parliamentarians do not talk about how 12.000 people kidnapped (by Kurdish terrorists) and detained actually in Mahmur Camp were not allowed to return to their homeland, but they are talking about Heybeliada Seminary,'' lamented Oymen.

Recalling that screening process on 17 chapter headings has been completed between Turkey and the EU, Oymen also asked why negotiations have not started yet. Touching on Cyprus issue and additional protocol, Oymen said, ''you cannot be successful by forcing Turkey. Don't expect that any Turkish government will make concessions in Cyprus if you do not lift isolations over Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Turkey is not responsible of the deadlock.''

Oymen said that European parliamentarians never talk about violation of human rights and pressure on Turkish minority in Western Thrace when talking about the seminary (in Heybeliada). ''If you don't behave fairly, the Turkish public will loose its trust to the EU. Before 75 percent of (Turkish) people were for EU membership, but this ratio has fallen to 59 percent nowadays'', he added.

Noting that the (Fener Greek Orthodox) Patriarchate wants to open the seminary under its own authority, Oymen indicated, ''if we allow this, fundamentalist groups will also ask for authorization to open private Muslim schools on their own.''


Meanwhile, MEP Geoffrey Van Orden said that the EU should be against terrorist organizations and extremist groups, and react against them. ''EU is behaving unfairly to Turkey. Kurdish extremists are exploiting human rights for their own purposes,'' he noted.

Orden stated that people should refrain from discourses which may back fundamentalism when they are defending freedom of religion.

''I argue that Turkey should not allow fundamentalism in state institutions and universities. Freedom of religion should not be used to disseminate fundamentalism,'' he added.

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