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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Turkey: Migrants, Elections, EU

On September 11, 2001, Greece accused Turkey of ignoring a stranded sailboat with 80 migrants headed for Greek islands. Turkey responded that the boat was in international waters, and thus was not its responsibility. After several days of drifting, the boat was swept into Turkish waters and Turkish authorities detained the migrants on September 13, 2002. Greece and Turkey signed an agreement in 2001 allowing Greece to return migrants to Turkey within 14 days of their arrival in Greece.

Turks go to the polls November 3, 2002. The most popular politician, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development Party and a former mayor of Istanbul, was declared ineligible to run because of his conviction in 1999 for reading a poem that a court said incited religious hatred ("The mosques are our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the believers our soldiers.") Several other candidates, including a former prime minister, were also barred from running for office because of similar convictions.

In August 2002, Turkey's Parliament passed legislation easing restrictions on speech in a bid to pave the way for the start of discussions for EU membership. The EU announced that it will not recommend a date for beginning entry negotiations until after the November 2002 elections. The EU gives Turkey E150 million a year in aid, and there were media reports that the EU would give Turkey E1 billion a year and not open membership talks.

"Turkey detains 65 illegal immigrants on boat bound for Greece," Agence France Presse, September 13, 2002. "Greece complains to Turkey over stranded migrant boat," AP, September 11, 2002.