Papoulias berates Turkey

Greek President Karolos Papoulias delivered a tough message to Turkey yesterday when addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, saying that Ankara had to overcome «serious problems» if it wants to become a member of the European Union. Papoulias said that Turkey had to improve its respect for human rights and the treatment of the Kurds in particular. «I do not think that Turkey will be able to have closer ties with the EU by violating fundamental rights. This is true for the Kurds but not them alone,» Papoulias told MEPs. The president made it clear that Ankara had to do more to remove the obstacles that could prevent it from entering the EU. «There are some very serious problems. The government needs to get to grips with them,» he said. Papoulias said Greece was in favor of Turkey joining the Union, but that for this to happen, Ankara had to operate within the framework that it has been given by Brussels. This warning shot from Athens comes at a time when relations with Ankara have become strained. The Greek government believes Turkey keeps raising issues – such as the Thessaloniki monument to the Pontic Greeks and objecting to a German vessel conducting seismographic research north of Crete without permission from Ankara – to deflect attention from its lack of reforms. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened yesterday that if the isolation of Turkish Cypriots did not end, Turkey would take «certain steps» that could create «new situations.» Papoulias told MEPs that the division of Cyprus was «a big European problem that still needs to be solved» and urged the EU to take a more prominent role in helping reunification talks start again. Meanwhile, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn also urged Turkey to proceed with reforms or face the possibility of its accession talks being frozen. «It is necessary that the Turkish government takes immediate action to restart the momentum of the country’s reforms,» said Rehn.