Further progress needed for Turkey to join EU, says report


The 2009 democratic opening was not followed through. The detention of elected politicians and human rights defenders raised concerns
The Progress Report on Turkey has just been released. The Commission concluded that the country has made progress in meeting EU membership criteria; however, further results are needed as regards fundamental rights, in particular to assure freedom of expression in practice. The report further stresses that the June elections presented the government with a window of opportunity to address reforms with fresh vigour. Turkey continued improving its ability to take on the obligations of membership. The pace of accession negotiations would gain new momentum if Turkey proceeded to the full implementation of its Customs Union obligations with the EU, and made progress towards normalisation of relations with Cyprus.
Political criteria
Turkey continues to sufficiently fulfil the political criteria, says Europe. Work on implementing the 2010 Constitutional reform package was launched by the government. Free and fair parliamentary elections took place on 12 June 2011, and opened the way for further constitutional reform. The creation of a specific Ministry for EU affairs is an encouraging signal for Turkey’s reform efforts to meet the EU accession criteria.
However according to the Commission, “significant further efforts are required to guarantee fundamental rights in most areas. This relates, in particular, to freedom of expression, where the number of court cases against writers and journalists, and the restrictions on access to the Internet, raised serious concerns”.

This is how the Commission assesses the Kurdish question: “As regards the East and Southeast, the 2009 democratic opening was not followed through. The detention of elected politicians and human rights defenders raised concerns. The truth about extra-judicial killings and torture carried out in the Southeast in the 1980s and 1990s has yet to be established following the due process of law. Landmines and the village guard system are still causes for concern. Terrorist attacks intensified. The PKK is on the EU list of terrorist organisations”.

While the Commission admits that no progress has followed the so called Turkish government “democratic opening” and expresses “worries for the arrests of elected politicians and human rights defenders” it continues with the three monkeys game.

Concerning human rights and the protection of minorities, the Commission says that “limited progress has been made. Significant efforts are needed in most areas, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

As regards the observance of international human rights law some progress was made, notably through the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). A number of reforms have been outstanding for several years. Legislation on human rights’ institutions needs to be brought fully into line with UN principles.

The positive trend on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, as regards both the incidence and severity of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, continued. Disproportionate force has still been used by these officials, in particular outside official places of detention. Credible allegations of physical ill-treatment were received, which concerned mainly excessive use of force during arrest. There is no progress on tackling impunity, including the processing of cases of alleged ill-treatment brought to the judiciary.

As regards prisons, the increase in the prison population is leading to serious overcrowding, which hampers attempts to improve the conditions of detention. An overhaul of the complaints system in prisons is overdue. Implementation of the OPCAT is expected to contribute to tackling some of these matters. Medical services for inmates, as well as the conditions for the detention of juveniles, are matters requiring special efforts.

With regard to freedom of expression, an open debate continued on topics perceived as sensitive, such as the Kurdish and Armenian issues, minority and cultural rights and the role of the military. However, the right to freedom of expression is undermined by the large number of legal cases and investigations against journalists, writers, academics and human rights defenders. This leads to self-censorship and, together with undue pressures on the media, raises serious concerns. Present legislation does not sufficiently guarantee freedom of expression in line with the ECHR and the case law of the ECtHR, and it permits restrictive interpretation by the judiciary. Frequent website bans are also a cause for serious concern. Overall, Turkey’s legislation and judicial practice are obstacles to the free exchange of information and ideas”.

As regards freedom of assembly, there has been progress on the ground: various demonstrations, including Newroz (the Kurdish New Year) and 1 May, took place peacefully. Demonstrations in the Southeast of the country and in other provinces related to the Kurdish issue, students’ rights, the activities of the higher education supervisory board YO?K and trade union rights were marked by a disproportionate use of force.

Legislation on freedom of association is broadly in line with EU standards. Excessive controls and restrictive interpretation of the law still remain. There were no developments as regards the amendment of legal provisions on the closure of political parties. There has been limited progress on freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Freedom of worship is generally respected. The dialogue with the Alevis and with the non-Muslim religious communities continued. Members of minority religions continued to be subject to threats by extremists. A legal framework in line with the ECHR has yet to be established, so that all non-Muslim religious communities and the Alevi community can function without undue constraints.

Economic criteria

Turkey is a functioning market economy. It should be able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in the medium term, provided that it accelerates the implementation of its comprehensive structural reform programme.

In 2010, Turkish economy grew by 8.9% vis-à-vis 2009, driven mainly by strong domestic demand. The rapid economic expansion continued in the first half of 2011. The private sector, in particular the industrial sector, remains the main driving force behind Turkey’s rapid expansion.

Robust economic development allowed strong employment growth and a sizeable drop in unemployment. Budget performance was better than expected, and the consolidation of public finances is on track. Privatisation has gained momentum. Trade and economic integration with the EU remained high and Turkey strengthened its presence in new markets.

The current account and trade deficits reached record levels in 2010, leading to significant external imbalances in the Turkish economy, which in turn pose a threat to macroeconomic stability.

EU Legislation

Turkey continued improving its ability to take on the obligations of membership. Progress was made in most areas, in particular company law, statistics and trans-European networks. Efforts need to continue towards alignment in areas such as environment, public procurement, freedom to provide services, social policy and employment, and taxation. As regards the Customs Union, a number of longstanding trade irritants remain unresolved. For most areas it is crucial that Turkey improves its administrative capacity to implement and enforce the EU-related legislation.

Turkey remains an important partner in the area of EU energy security. Preparations have continued on the Nabucco project. Negotiations have been finalised on an EU-Turkey readmission agreement, which now needs to be initialled and signed.

State of play on accession negotiations

EU accession negotiations with Turkey began on 3 October 2005. In total, 13 out of 33 negotiation chapters have been opened and one chapter has been provisionally closed. As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight negotiating chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligations.

EU-TURKEY: KEY DATES

September 1959 – Turkey applies for associate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC).

September 1963 – Signature of the association agreement (known as the Ankara Agreement), aiming at bringing Turkey into a Customs Union with the EEC and to eventual membership.

April 1987 – Turkey applies for full membership to the EEC.

1995 – Turkey – EU Association Council finalises the agreement creating a customs union between Turkey and the EU.

December 1999 – Turkey obtains status of an EU candidate country.

December 2004 – The European Council defines the conditions for the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey.

October 2005 – Opening of accession negotiations with Turkey.

December 2006 – The Council decides that 8 negotiating chapters can not be opened and no chapter can be closed until Turkey meets its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional protocol to the Association Agreement


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