Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
A local champion with an international reputation
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News from the Lib Dems in Government
Published on Tuesday 4th October 2005
Graham Watson MEP, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament welcomed the agreement of Member States to stick to their promises and begin membership negotiations with Turkey marking an important staging post on Turkey's long journey from 1963 Association Membership.
"The prospect before us now is not the accession of today's Turkey but that of tomorrow's Turkey - of 2015 or 2020. This decision represents the hope of those who wish to see a reformed Turkey founded on the rule of law and respect for human rights and religious freedom. It is in all our interests, both economic and political to encourage stability and security in the region," he said
"To lift a phrase from Winston Churchill - this is not the end, it may not even be the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning for Turkey's long bid to join the EU".
"However the process leaves a smell of a back room deal. Three days ago the ICTY chief prosecutor stated her dissatisfaction with Croatian compliance. What has suddenly changed ? A political trade-off on matters as serious as enlargement ill-befits a Union desperately in need of restoring credibility with its citizens. I am in favour of Croatian accession talks if they are deemed to be ready but I do oppose all forms of Council secrecy. I call on Jack Straw, Carla del Ponte and the Council of Ministers to be honest and open about the deal they struck last night."
Emma Bonino, ALDE group spokesperson on Turkey commented:
"Turkey has been making significant progress in recent years, progress that would have seemed unimaginable without the incentive of EU membership. This is the soft power of the EU that has proven itself time and again as an instrument of peace and reconciliation in Europe. It is the basis of our prosperity and stability. No-one is pre-empting the outcome of negotiations but the process itself will bring much needed reform and benefits for both sides.".