As it has been mentioned, the majority of human rights activists in Turkey (Leila Zana among them) are of the opinion that a positive decision on the Republic of Turkey’s application to join the European Union will contribute to the improvement of Turkey’s policy on ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
And they have good reasons for saying this. The same reasons human rights activists in Latvia had when discussions on Latvia’s candidacy for membership of the EU were held. Unfortunately, there is great disillusionment among Latvian human rights activists now. Yes, under pressure from European institutions some changes in legislation concerning problems essential for minorities were made. But these changes were cosmetic. For example, the improvements made in the Law on languages were intended to facilitate the situation of only one particular linguistic minority – English speaking businessmen.
We see the same urgent cosmetic steps taking place in Turkey. For example, the Turkish government has allowed private language centers to open, offering courses in Kurdish, Armenian and other tongues. A private language center is something essentially different from what we would recognize as a school – term been used in Mr.Eurling´s report.
My country, Latvia, became a member of the EU despite the fact that the Latvian authorities did not recognize the rights of linguistic minorities. It was a mistake, for EU institutions not to use Latvia’s accession process to promote the fulfillment of the Copenhagen Political criteria.
This history must not be repeated in the case of Turkey’s accession. We hope that in 15 years Turkey will fulfill completely the political criteria. We call upon the Commission to use every opportunity to urge the Turkish government to recognize the Kurdish minority in the country and to create the conditions necessary for this minority to be respected and protected.