Recep Tayyip


Prime Minister of Turkey

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Mr President, Mr Secretary General, honorable parliamentarians, it is a privilege for me to address this august Assembly which is the oldest parliamentary congregation of European nations, on a day of particular significance for Turkey in its destiny with Europe.

We are proud to be one of the founding members which, in 1949, laid the foundation of this common home of European nations that subscribe to the ideals of pluralistic democracy, the supremacy of the rule of law, and which uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms. The Council of Europe has expanded its horizons, in parallel with the larger transformation undergone in our continent, and today represents the convergence of roughly 800 million European citizens around democratic values and legal standards. We extend a warm welcome to our most recent member and wholeheartedly congratulate Monaco on this occasion.

As a pan-European forum, the Council’s place and role within the new European architecture requires new definition.

In this connection, the extensive acquis of the Council, elaborated over fifty years through numerous European instruments in several fields, constitutes an important foundation for other European institutions.

In this framework, we support the European Union becoming party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Cultural Convention and the Revised European Social Charter. The 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, scheduled to take place in Warsaw next year in May, will provide a timely opportunity to give guidance, particularly in the aftermath of the enlargement of the European Union, on the future role of the Council within the new European architecture.

Mr President, the norms of the Council of Europe, embodied in more than 190 conventions, provide a basic point of reference for Turkey. The adoption of European norms in Turkish legislation continues to this day and has been a principal component of our current reform process. In fact, earlier this morning Turkey deposited with the Secretary General instruments of ratification for three more European conventions and signed two additional ones.

Mr President, shortly after the Justice and Development Party assumed office in Turkey, in January 2003, our current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs stood before this Assembly as Prime Minister and outlined our commitments to reforms. Despite the short period of time that has elapsed since then, I am pleased to be able to state that nearly all those commitments are already fulfilled.

I would like to briefly refer to some of these comprehensive reforms. We abolished the death penalty and eliminated it from law. We will shortly complete the procedures for the ratification of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

We dissolved the state security courts.

We have effectively adopted and implemented a “zero tolerance” policy towards torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, as reflected in the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

We have aligned civilian-military relations in conformity with democratic norms.

We have adopted regulations to promote gender equality and enshrined it as a principle in the constitution for the first time.

We have enabled broadcasting in and learning of the languages and dialects traditionally used by Turkish citizens in their everyday lives.

We have adopted a law for compensating losses of victims of terrorism which afflicted Turkish society during the 1980s and 1990s.

The comprehensive legislative reforms we have enacted, and the measures we have taken to expedite their uniform implementation, have been coined as a “silent revolution” by the Independent Commission on Turkey composed of eminent European politicians in their report issued past month. I appreciate that the Assembly recognised and commended our reform programme and concluded, last June, the monitoring procedure for Turkey by a large majority.

Mr President, legal changes that will enable Turkey to become a party to the International Criminal Court, as is the case with the majority of the members of the Council of Europe, are among the reforms that we have accomplished. In this context, our new Penal Code includes the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity in line with contemporary norms. We enacted the necessary amendments to the constitution. Having completed the domestic legal preparations, I would like to announce today from this rostrum that Turkey will, in the near future, ratify the Rome Statute and become a party to the International Criminal Court.

Mr President, today is a date of particular significance for Turkey in its accession process to the European Union. We are confident that the positive tone set by the Commission report and recommendation will be matched by the political will on the part of the leadership of the member states of the European Union. We hope to bring a long-travelled road to its final lap with the initiation of accession negotiations in the first half of 2005. Turkey’s membership will not be realised overnight. Certainly Turkey anticipates concluding this phase within a reasonable period of time. To this end, we, in Turkey, will fulfil our share.

Mr President, the transformation that has taken place in Turkish society is also reflected in the adoption of the European culture of compromise, as was demonstrated in the policy of the Turkish Government in efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. The resolve demonstrated by Turkey for a just and lasting resolution of this problem and its positive contributions to the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to achieve a comprehensive settlement are acknowledged by the international community.

Regrettably, the process of negotiations, strongly supported by Turkey leading up to the simultaneous referenda held on the island on 24 April 2004, did not yield the positive outcome. Let me recall that the Turkish Cypriot side, by a large majority in favour of the Annan plan, demonstrated their political will for unification and membership in the European Union.

The outcome of the referenda has created a new state of affairs in Cyprus. In his latest report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, the UN Secretary-General clearly underlines that “the Turkish Cypriot vote has undone any rationale for pressuring and isolating them” and calls on all states to co-operate both bilaterally and in international bodies to eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development. Six months have elapsed since the referenda on the island. Now is the time to end the political, economic, social and cultural isolation that the Turkish Cypriots have been subjected to. I call on the international community to lift the unfair economic embargo imposed on them for decades. Concrete measures need to be taken to facilitate direct commercial, cultural and transportation links.

As an organisation dedicated to the development of European co-operation, the Council of Europe can take a leading role in this direction. The decision adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe two days ago to include the elected representatives of the Turkish Cypriots in its deliberations is a step in the right direction. It is only natural that the Turkish Cypriots, who have made a European choice, take their due place in this forum for pan-European dialogue and co-operation.

Mr President, while the new century offers much promise for the promotion of democracy, good governance and human rights at global level, it is also replete with a whole new spectrum of unpredictable and lethal challenges.

Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction top the list of perils that pose a major threat to our security and liberty. Terrorism today has become truly global. Accordingly, our struggle with this scourge requires a new level of coherence and solidarity. Indiscriminate acts of terror committed throughout the world target the entire humanity. Terrorism knows no national or regional boundaries and cannot be affiliated with any one religion or cause.

It is a crime against humanity that cannot be justified under any circumstance. Turkey encourages the Council of Europe to play a more active role in the normative as well as the practical aspects of combating terrorism.

In this context, I invite the Council of Europe to intensify its contacts with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to promote a dialogue between diverse cultures and religions. Turkey, as a member of both organisations, is ready to exert the necessary effort to this end.

Mr President, before drawing to a close, I turn to developments taking place close to us in Turkey, just across our borders, in Iraq. The grave security situation is also a matter of deep concern for all countries contributing to the humanitarian efforts to rehabilitate, reconstruct and reinstate law and order in that country.

The transfer of authority to the Interim Iraqi Government was the first step towards normalisation. However, the road ahead to political stability is still full of dangers and threats. We remain committed to assisting the Interim Iraqi Government in its daunting task to improve security, stability and prosperity for Iraq.

For the restoration of stability, the preservation of the integrity and unity, the establishment of a government fully representing all segments of society and the reconstruction of Iraq are matters of vital concern for Turkey, as well as for the whole region.

We also play a leading role in the consultation mechanism between Iraq and her neighbours. Turkey launched this initiative and through it we seek to make a collective contribution. We would like to see a democratic Iraq, free from terror, at peace with itself and its neighbours and fully reintegrated with the international community. Turkey has no agenda, other than contributing to the emergence of a stable Iraq.

Mr President, I thank you for this opportunity today to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which represents our continent’s common heritage of unity in diversity. In concluding, I reiterate our strong commitment to the common quest to upholding individual freedoms, human rights, political liberty and the rule of law as well as to the consolidation of security and democracy throughout our continent. Turkey will continue to be an active member of the Council of Europe. Thank you.


Thank you very much, Mr Erdogan, for your most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you.

I remind colleagues that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches. I will allow supplementary questions at the end and only if time permits.

The first question is by Mr van der Linden, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr VAN DER LINDEN (Netherlands)

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the legal and political developments implemented as part of the process of preparing Turkey for membership of the European Union. As Turkey goes through the enormous reform process, one of the most delicate domains is the implementation of all the laws and regulations that form part of the acquis communautaire. How does the Prime Minister envisage the following up, the acceleration, the improvement and the monitoring of that reform process? Does he imagine that the European Union will have a monitoring mechanism for the implementation and does he think that the Council of Europe could play a supporting role in that?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that Turkey was implementing the Copenhagen criteria and had been successful in completing legislative changes to implement the road map. The next step was the change in mentality following the legislative changes, which would take longer. However, the political will existed to implement the necessary changes.

Mr EORSI (Hungary)

Liberals have always been and will continue to be supporters of Turkey’s accession to the European Union. As the Cyprus rapporteur, I welcome the Prime Minister’s words today. When Mr Prodi visited Ankara earlier this year he said that Cyprus was not a precondition for entry. How should we read that sentence? Does it mean that even if the Cyprus issue is not resolved, Turkey can join the European Union, or does that mean that even if the Cyprus issue is resolved, Turkey’s chances are limited? In any case, I wish the Prime Minister the best of luck.

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

thanked his liberal friend. He said that he was sincerely active on the Cyprus issue: he had told Secretary-General Annan that Turkey would be one step ahead of Greece in the fourth round of the negotiations. Turkey had fully implemented her promises. On 24 April, Turkish Cypriots had shown the world that they were in favour of globalisation and peace. The Greek Cypriots were not interested, they were stuck in economic and transport issues, and he was grateful to the Council of Europe for its work on the issue. The Turkish Cypriot side was making changes; it no longer made enemies, but rather reinforced peace, freedom and friendship.

Mr KOX (Netherlands)

According to Human Rights Watch, Turkey shows continued improvement in the freedom of the press and of religion, and in respect for minorities, and I compliment the Prime Minister on these results. Is the Turkish Government now prepared to take all the necessary and irreversible steps to end all torture in police stations and jails, to facilitate the return of all displaced Kurds, to end the suffering of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens and to repair the damage done to them as much as possible?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said Commissioner Verheugen, who was in charge of EU enlargement, had visited Turkey where he had been informed of concerns regarding torture. He had sent an expert group to Turkey to look into that issue. The group’s report had said there was no systematic torture in Turkey, in its prisons or elsewhere. Individual incidents did occur, but the government did not condone them. He concluded by saying that some of those who claimed to be tortured had been in contact with terrorists, and that caused a problem.

Ms DURRIEU (France) (translation)

I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister on the huge number of reforms carried out. I would point out that I am Chair of the Monitoring Committee.

Turkey is a secular state. Only three countries represented in this Chamber have included secularism in their constitutions. How does the Prime Minister intend preserving it on a daily basis? Does he realise the scale of the damage caused and the doubts raised by the attempt to include adultery as an offence in the Criminal Code?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that secularism, which allowed separation between religious and state affairs, was not a new concept for Turkey. It was specified in the 1982 constitution. It was a guarantee that the state was equally distant from all religious beliefs. The issue of adultery had not been raised on the draft criminal code. It had exploded onto the agenda and been widely debated in the media. He believed that the media had exaggerated its true importance. The matter had been resolved by not including adultery in the Criminal Code.

Mr LOUTFI (Bulgaria) (translation)

Bulgaria and Turkey are neighbouring countries that have excellent relations.

What is the Prime Minister’s assessment of the current state of relations between Turkey and Bulgaria in the context of security and stability in South-Eastern Europe, as the two countries are members of Nato and will probably be partners in the European Union?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that Turkey had excellent relations with Bulgaria, particularly with the current government. One of his first targets for foreign policy had been to improve relations with all countries. He had visited Bulgaria and his ministers continued to have dialogue with the Bulgarian Government. Romania and Bulgaria expected to become full members of the European Union in 2007. Turkey hoped soon to join the list of EU accession states. That would undoubtedly bring the two countries closer together. Turkey had many collective issues with Bulgaria regarding security in the Balkans, and he hoped that the two countries would work together on them.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland)

Mr Prime Minister, will you share with us your ideas on the potential that Turkey has to build bridges between Europe and the Middle East and the Far East, and to build bridges between two religions that have to find a peace that is in the interests of both?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said he would answer the question not by speaking of a bridge that might be built geographically, but by speaking of a bridge that would be built culturally. Turkey would build bridges to the Middle East. The world was waiting for Turkey to assume that role. Turkey was aware of its responsibility.


As a rapporteur, I was in favour of proposing the ending of the monitoring procedure on Turkey. The Assembly invited Turkey to reform, inter alia, local and regional government and to introduce real decentralisation. It seems that progress is being made through plans and projects, but there is still an enormous gap in redistributing institutional, human and financial resources. What commitment can you give that there will be a fundamental change and what are the plans for implementation?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that his background was in local government. He had spent four years as Lord Mayor of Istanbul. He recognised the importance of decentralisation. Turkey was attempting to implement a law to enable decentralisation to take place. However, there had been some objections, and parliament would be asked to reconsider some aspects of the legislation. Turkey’s Parliament was ready to work on that and would co-operate with the Turkish President to achieve that.

Mr MOLLAZADE (Azerbaijan)

Prime Minister, you represent a country that has been purposely created and designed as a model for other Turkish- populated and Muslim-populated countries and as a European country. You have undergone political and legal reform. What is the state of the Turkish economy in comparison with those of neighbouring eastern European countries and others that have been invited to join the European Union? Are you continuing to combat corruption? It was one of the major parts of your programme. What is the situation?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

noted that the Constitution of Turkey established the state as a democratic and secular one, but it was correct to say that 99% of the population were Muslim. The Turkish economy had displayed exemplary growth recently. When the current government had come to power, the average purchasing power had been US$2 600 and this had since reached US$4 000. On 3 November 2002, when the present administration took office, the growth rate was 7.8%. The 2003 target was 5% and that had been exceeded, reaching 5.9%. In the first six months of 2004 the growth rate had been 13.4%. In the ninth month of 2004 Turkey was registering single-digit inflation, down from 30% under the previous government.

He accepted that the main weakness remained the heavy debt burden carried by the state. Combined interest rates had reached 69%, but he was happy to announce that current debt servicing rates were 23% or 24%, a healthier ratio. Major progress was being made in investment, which reached US$20 billion at the end of July 2004. Direct foreign investment represented US$1.8 billion, and international analyses demonstrated that Turkey was the largest country attracting foreign investments.

In 2005 Turkey would reform her currency and erase six noughts, so ensuring even better economic performance which would serve her well as negotiations with the EU began. With respect to corruption, the government had not faced a single allegation since coming to power, but if an allegation were received it would be followed up with vigour. The government would attempt to remedy what citizens had previously lost through corruption.

Ms PETROVA-MITEVSKA (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

The Republic of Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. Relations between our two countries, which have profound roots, are constantly improving. The Turkish minority in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Turkish citizens of Macedonian origin have made a great contribution to that. Will the integration of Turkey into Europe – the dilemmas have now been overcome – include enhancing the underdeveloped economic relations with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and its neighbouring countries?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

referred to the presence of Turkish people in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and said he had visited there before becoming Prime Minister. There were common values and cultural points between the two countries. Political relations would be sustained with neighbouring countries during the negotiations with the EU, and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” should have no concern about the continuing development of relations.

Mr MANZELLA (Italy) (translation)

Prime Minister, I hope that today, 6 October, will prove a historic day for Turkey and for the rest of Europe. I have two questions on regional stability. How are developments in the situation in Iraq affecting Turkey? Secondly, what is your assessment of Iran’s nuclear policy?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that Iraq was a continuing problem, and Turkey could not pretend to be happy with current developments. Scores of people were being killed each day, in particular, women, children and innocent victims. The death of such people brought civilised society into disrepute. He had concerns about the future for Iraq and noted that it was important to make the correct diagnosis before attempting to solve the problem.

Turkey was fully committed to assisting in Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations, and more than 2 000 Turkish trucks were travelling to Iraq. The drivers faced the twin dangers of death and kidnapping. Even those who have been released after being held as hostages are known to have returned to Iraq in order to meet that country’s economic needs. The forthcoming elections provided some hope and Turkey was prepared to help in any possible way. Self-government was the way forward for Iraq, and the occupation by foreign forces should end.

Northern Iraq was in a different situation, with a different understanding and a different mentality. Turkey did not want any one ethnic group in northern Iraq to have power over another. That would create an imbalance of power and would threaten territorial integrity. The riches of the land belonged to the Iraqi people; for example, the oil in Kirkuk would create a problem if any one ethnic group tried to confiscate it.

He had been told, on his last visit to Iran, that Iran was working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and regarded nuclear power as a solution to her energy needs. Nuclear energy could be useful if it was in the hands of a responsible country. Various countries around the world used nuclear energy and the IAEA was controlling the situation in Iran.

Mr OSTROVSKY (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that the Russian Federation had data about Turkish citizens in armed gangs on Russian territory. Russian nationals had also returned to Turkish territory to train and to receive medical help. He asked what measures the Prime Minister was taking against Russian terrorists who had taken refuge in Turkey.

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that Russian nationals were different from terrorists. Turkish intelligence agencies worked with Russian intelligence agencies and exchanged information. They knew there were some terrorists hidden in Turkey and likewise Turkish terrorists were hidden in the Russian Federation. There was a common struggle and a common problem. The two countries would work together to achieve success against terrorist organisations.

Mr FOMENKO (Russian Federation)

Dear Prime Minister, may I say what fast and impressive progress your cabinet has made in implementing Council of Europe principles and practices in the political culture of the Republic of Turkey? Is it realistic for us Orthodox Christians of Europe to hope to be granted the opportunity to attend the Orthodox mass in our holy place of St Sofia Basilica, which is now the Agia Sofia Museum?

Mr Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (interpretation)

said that on that matter there were treaties, agreements, rules, laws and procedures dating back into history, so he could not give a definite answer. However, Christians and Jewish citizens could freely practise their religions without obstacles in the Orthodox and Catholic churches and the synagogues in Turkey. Christians and Jews were free to construct new churches and synagogues. The wording of planning laws had been changed so that they no longer referred to mosques but to prayer areas. Everybody was free to pray in his or her own religion.


We must now conclude the questions to Mr Erdogan. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers he has given to the questions. Mr Erdogan, I thank you and all your colleagues for coming.