WELCOME OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY,
MR RENÉ VAN DER LINDEN,
TO MR ABDULLAH GUL, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY
(Strasbourg, Wednesday, 3 October 2007)
It is my great pleasure to welcome you back to this Assembly, back amongst the many friends you made during your long service as a member.
If the Parliamentary Assembly is a School of Democracy, then you are one of our most distinguished alumni.
We are therefore deeply honoured that your first major speech outside Turkey will be delivered to this Assembly.
It is not the first time that you have been back to address us.
In 2003, as Prime Minister, you spoke with conviction about:
- how your experience as a member of the Assembly had contributed immensely to your political philosophy;
- how you would put this experience into practice in government; and
- how your country had benefited from the work of the Council of Europe, its standards and mechanisms.
Certainly, your country’s progress since then has been remarkable, allowing the Assembly to close the monitoring procedure in 2004.
Turkey’s democratic maturity was also well expressed during the election process that brought you to the presidency.
Despite high emotions, the tensions never became a crisis.
Instead, the situation was resolved through peaceful democratic and constitutional means, with full respect for the right to peaceful demonstration and without any intervention by the military or outside forces.
On the foreign policy front, Turkey has faced an increasingly complicated situation since your address in 2003.
Two issues have been particularly difficult: the war in Iraq; and the negotiations towards Turkish accession to the European Union.
The Assembly is pleased to note the restraint shown by Turkey in the face of the violence and instability across its borders.
As to EU accession, my own views are well known: the Union must keep the promises it made to Turkey in the past.
There may still be a long way to go, but negotiations must continue with a genuine prospect of membership.
Turkey, through its geographical position, history and modern democratic development, is a European country.
Your European vocation was already proved when, in 1949, you became one of the earliest member States of the Council of Europe.
Europe’s future will depend on our relations with Turkey, as a bridge and example to neighbouring countries and regions.
This potential to promote inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue has already been manifest in the important Alliance of Civilisations initiative, which the Assembly fully supports.
With all these points of great mutual interest to discuss, I very much look forward to you address.
President Gul, the floor is yours.