As a former member of this Assembly, it gives me great pleasure to address my colleagues once again. Being familiar with your work, I know that the WEU's Parliamentary Assembly is playing an important role in the evolution of Europe into a more integrated whole and a more morally justified unity for tomorrow and for the future of our continent. I know that the Assembly is playing a particularly important role in security architecture. Ensuring the security of our continent is a priority in the making of a new Europe. That Europe and those objectives can be attained only if security" is understood to embrace the whole continent, taking account of the security needs of all the countries, and ensuring that we are very cautious not to create new divisions. Based on those broad principles, Europe's new security architecture should be built on the following pillars: a transformed Atlantic Alliance, together with the new consultative forum of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council; a robust transatlantic partnership; a new forum of cooperation and consultation with Russia and Ukraine; an enlarging European integration process, with the Council of Europe and the OSCE as over-arching roofs; and regional groupings, from the Baltic Council to Black Sea cooperation, from the Balkan initiatives to economic cooperation and organisation. Those organisations should have a vital role to play in this new set-up.
As regards regional schemes, Turkey has recently taken an initiative for the creation of a multinational peace force in south-eastern Europe. By signing the agreement to this end on 26 September 1998 in Skopje, seven countries in the region have taken an important step towards turning that initiative into a reality.
We are satisfied with the harmonious work under way in WEU and NATO for reinforcing the cooperation and complementarity between the two organisations. We shall continue to support the efforts aimed at putting all the essential elements of the ESDI - the European security and defence identity - in place within the Alliance by the time of the Washington summit meeting in a way which will satisfy all the countries concerned. In this regard, Turkey attaches particular importance to preserving the NATO Alliance as the basis for the collective defence of Europe.
When discussing European integration, I should underline the fact that becoming a full member of both the EU and WEU is one of my country's main objectives. I will try to put that objective into a strategic perspective in terms of what we are trying to build for the next century.
We believe that Turkey has the necessary assets to become a leading actor in Eurasia - that is to say, in the new, emerging reality which encompasses large parts of Asia and Europe. The role that we envisage will combine two factors, two realities: first, our firm and full participation in European institutions; secondly, and combined with that, our growing cooperative presence in a large geographical area stretching from the Balkans to the Middle East, to the Caucasus and to central Asia. Those are the two preconditions for being able to play a strategic role in Eurasia, and they are the two paths on which we are making progress.
In fact, Turkey's pivotal location in Eurasia is the result of historical and contemporary factors. Turkey encompasses both the European and the Asian dimensions. It is European by its history, which was created mainly in Europe and is part of European history; by its historical and contemporary geography, which is in Europe; by its basic institutional choices; and by its culture. If European culture is not defined on an ethnic and religious basis but - as the Council of Europe or the EU does - on values such as democracy, secularism, gender equality, human rights, and social rights - in spite of some aspects which need further development - Turkey is part of this European culture, as defined by the Council of Europe.
On the other hand, Turkey's history, geography and culture are also Asian, and Turkey is strongly rooted in Asia. This multi-dimensional, historical and cultural asset has been further enhanced by the recent strategic and economic developments worldwide and in Turkey.
The post-cold war political framework witnessed the birth or reappearance of several independent states. Almost all of that multitude of new states - in the Balkans, in the Caucasus or in central Asia - are countries with whom Turkey shares history, religion or language. It is interesting to note that this change brought to 26 the number of countries with which Turkey has lived for centuries as part of the same political entity.
These recent developments have provided Turkey with a new international environment of historical and political dimensions. Furthermore, those new nation states have quickly embarked on the task of rebuilding their economies and opening them to foreign investment. As a long-standing actor in the area, Turkey has become a vital partner in their economic restructuring.
To finalise my comments on Eurasia, I can say that that background provides the necessary basis for strong economic relationships and a unique platform for political cooperation. In that vast socio-political geography stretching from the Balkans to central Asia, Turkey has the most dynamic economy, with some billion in real gross national product and a sustained growth of about 5% for the past 20 years, and the most advanced armed forces and the longest running democracy. It therefore has optimal conditions for contributing to stability, and for enjoying and sharing the opportunities presented by the emerging reality of Eurasia. The creation of a stable Eurasia is crucial for the security of Europe.
I shall now look westwards and address a problematic area that also affects Turkey's relations with WEU. Turkey signed an accession agreement with the EU as early as 1963. It became the first and so far only non-member country to enter a customs union with the EU in 1995. Thus we have already become an integral part of the economic Europe, despite the fact that we have had almost no financial assistance from the EU to prepare Turkey for such a strong and difficult competitive environment. Full membership of the EU would only be a natural outcome of that process. We are aware that EU membership requires fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria. However, at the Luxembourg summit meeting the EU adopted a discriminatory attitude towards Turkey in the application of the Copenhagen criteria. To remind my colleagues, those criteria have three categories. The first are economic. To become a member of the EU a country must have an economy that can compete openly with the existing economies of member countries. The second are democratic criteria. To become a member of the EU a country must have a full democracy with no problems, operating swiftly and without difficulties. Thirdly, a country must be able to adjust to the acquis communautaire, to the rules and understandings of the EU.
For 11 countries - I refer again to Luxembourg - those criteria were presented as conditions to be fulfilled before becoming a member, whereas for Turkey the same criteria have been imposed for granting the status of candidate. Thus there was a discriminatory attitude towards some countries. For Turkey, the conditions were used as preconditions for becoming a candidate.
That discriminatory attitude was unacceptable to my Government. Although the Cardiff summit decisions tried to remedy the situation to an extent, the problem is not yet solved. Nevertheless, some improvement has recently been made in that regard through the progress report of the Commission, which perceives Turkey as one of the 12 candidates. We believe that that attitude towards candidacy should be officially endorsed at the political summit level and that such a decision would open the way for further strengthening of Turkish-EU relationships.
On the other hand, we have continuously advocated that the rigid linkage of membership between WEU and the EU should be abandoned and the perspective of full membership of WEU for all European allies should be opened. In that regard, I stress that we highly appreciated Mr Antretter's report and the ensuing recommendation on security in a wider Europe. President de Puig's visit to Turkey in July was also a positive input to Turkey's relations with WEU. In the 21st century, Turkey must work towards both Europe and Asia at the same time. Our efforts will be mutually reinforcing, as we shall contribute to peace and stability in Eurasia and play a constructive role in the making of Europe.
Having dwelt on how to ensure the security of our continent, I should like briefly to touch on an equally important subject: how to ensure the security of the citizen and of individuals. Our societies continue to face important challenges such as drug smuggling, illegal trafficking in human beings, child kidnapping and terrorism. Those scourges threaten the fabric of our societies and the well-being of our citizens. In order to build a better future for our children we must do away with those sicknesses.
During its term in office, my Government has given priority to the fight against organised crime and terrorism. We have made important headway on both tracks. Mafia-like organisations have been dismantled and the majority of their leaders are now behind bars. Our Government has achieved particularly important success in fighting terrorism. A terror campaign that has been in full swing for more than a decade is finally being thwarted.
For the past 15 years our people have suffered a lot from acts of organised terror organised mainly from the territories of neighbouring countries. More than 5 000 civilians, mostly of Kurdish origin, have been massacred by the terrorist organisation. There can be no justification for the use of terrorist violence or the killings of thousands of women, children, elderly people and teachers. About 153 teachers have been massacred for teaching children Turkish - that was their only crime. Furthermore, this terrorist organisation is responsible for many of the narcotics smuggled into Europe, as well as for the abduction of children and the extortion of money in western European countries.
The scope of terrorist attacks that Turkey faced in the past decade has been decreasing constantly. The agreement reached between Syria and Turkey to combat terrorism seems to be a decisive factor in further curbing terrorism, but justice will not prevail unless the main perpetrator of these heinous crimes stands trial in the country of his victims. Extradition and prosecution of a terrorist is a legal issue between Italy and Turkey. It is an issue of justice. To turn this legal issue into a political problem between the European Union and Turkey is to do a disservice to the rule of law, to justice and to Turkish-EU relations and, to a larger extent, Turkey's relations with western Europe. Therefore, we completely reject the so-called "European initiative". Instead of trying to politicise a legal issue, we believe that we should let justice do its work in relation to the legal concepts, requirements and understanding of the countries involved. A legal case of murderous crimes should not be affected by political concerns or political scenarios. We expect all the countries involved to abide by international law, to abide by the conventions that they have signed, and to abide by the commitments that they have undertaken to participate in the joint struggle against terrorism.
Europe should not be a safe haven for fugitives from justice. All European countries should be loyal to their own principles and unite their forces to suppress terrorism and promote the rule of law for a new Europe based on mutual understanding and shared values. Mr President, I am confident of Europe's bright future. I am confident of Turkey's contribution to that future. Thank you.