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Posted on on April 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Macedonia was approved for NATO but could not join because of the two Greek EU Member States – Greece and Cyprus – objecting to its name.

Now a Cyprus Former First Lady, to become   EU Commmissioner of Health, hesitates to discover her age for cultural reasons and Turkey may finally decriminalize questions about “Turkishness.” Does   the EU take itself seriously?

New commissioner asked ‘rude question’ about age.

08.04.2008 | By Renata Goldirova
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Androula Vassiliou, a former first lady of Cyprus and the country’s new EU commissioner-designate, has revealed that she does not like people asking her age.

On Tuesday (8 April), her spokesperson refused to reveal how old Ms Vassiliou is following a journalist’s question, saying it was “rude” to ask and inappropriate to speak about a woman’s age.

“In Greek, in our culture, it is a bit rude to ask for a woman’s age. So if you insist that much, I would suggest that you do some research on Google and you will find the CV of the commissioner and there you can find her exact age,” commission spokesperson Nina Papadoulaki said.

She added: “Honestly, I don’t have her age.”

Only later did the commission provide media with the required information that Ms Vassiliou’s birthday falls on 30 November 1943 – making her 64.

The spokesperson insisted, however, that her secretive tone was not a result of lack of transparency, but only a question of cultural perception. “In general, we neither mention nor publicise the age,” she said.

In fact, even the Cypriot would-be commissioner’s profile on the official commission website falls short of mentioning her birthday. Similarly, the free encyclopedia Wikipedia also cites only dates related to her legal and political career.

At the same time, eight other female commissioners make no effort to hide their age, with this piece of personal information available on each of their official websites.

The ‘rude-question’ kerfuffle comes just one day ahead of a vote in the European Parliament on the nomination of Ms Vassiliou as a new member of the commission.

She is to be put in charge of the health dossier, replacing Markos Kyprianou – who left the commission to take on the foreign minister post in Cyprus.

Turkey set to pass key freedom of speech reform.

09.04.2008   By Elitsa Vucheva
The Turkish parliament is next week likely to pass a bill softening a law which sets limits on freedom of the speech by criminalizing insults to “Turkishness”.

One article in the country’s penal code – article 301 – currently imposes up to three years in prison for such an insult.

Many Turkish intellectuals and writers have been tried under the article, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk.

“I believe we will push the amendment to Article 301 through parliament next week,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (8 April), according to press agencies.

Late on Monday, the Turkish government submitted its draft proposal for amendments to the parliament, suggesting, among other things, that the country’s president should give his consent before prosecutors can launch cases in that field.

It also proposes that the vague term “Turkishness” be replaced by “Turkish nation”, and the prison time envisaged be decreased from three to two years while the sentence could be suspended or converted to a fine, AFP reports.

The move comes just days before a visit to Turkey on Thursday and Friday by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn.

The EU has repeatedly called on EU candidate Turkey to “repeal or amend without delay” the controversial article as a prerequisite to join the bloc.

The article has mostly been used against those who refuse to follow Turkey’s official line on the killings of Armenians during World War I, by for example referring to the events as “genocide” – a term Ankara categorically rejects.

The amendment is expected to be adopted without difficulty in the country’s parliament, as the governing Justice and Development (AKP) party maintains a majority of 340 deputies in the 550-seat parliament.

Turkey has been an EU candidate country since 1999, and launched accession talks with the bloc in October 2005. Progress has been slow and it has so far opened six out the 35 chapters needed in order for the accession negotiations to be closed.

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