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Sunday, January 8, 2012

European Parliament's Opinion on Turkey Progress Report

Follow this link to get to an online version of the European Parliament's (EP) recently enacted resolution on the Commission's 2011 Progress Report on Turkey. (I can't find it on the Parliament's own pages.)

It contains important and appropriate criticism, of which I have excerpted some of the most significant portions below. The problem, of course, is that due to the EU's past and current treatment of Turkey, the Progress Reports and the EP's opinions receive less and less attention in Turkey. So at a time when penetrating criticism is arguably needed urgently, the EU's "normative power" over Turkey is weaker than in decades. In the words of the prominent columnist Mehmet Ali Birand:
relations have dropped to their lowest level. Turkey is not on Europe’s agenda anymore. Europe is not on Turkey’s agenda either.

It has gone back to such an extent that for the first time in 47 years, the influence of the EU over Turkish politics has reached almost zero. In the past, voices, critics and warnings coming from Europe would be taken into utmost consideration; moreover, domestic politics would be adjusted to the EU’s conditions and rules.

Today, Ankara does not pay attention to either the Council of Europe or the European Parliament.
The reports used to be the top story in Turkish news for weeks, now they are mentioned and dropped. And this particular silence is not a result of phone calls from the Prime Minister.

For what it is worth, then, here are some key resolutions in the opinion:
9. Reiterates its concern that judicial procedural norms have not yet been improved sufficiently to ensure the right to a fair and timely trial, including the right to access incriminating evidence in the early phases of the proceedings and sufficient guarantees for all suspects; expresses great concern at the duration of pre-trial detention, with the latter becoming de-facto punishment without a trial; urges the TGNA to reform legislation on pre-trial detention bringing maximum pre-trial detention periods in Turkey in line with average pre-trial detention periods in the European Union;

10. Stresses that investigations of alleged coup plans, such as the ‘Ergenekon’ and ‘Sledgehammer’ cases, must demonstrate the strength and the proper, independent, impartial and transparent functioning of Turkish democratic institutions and the judiciary and their firm, unconditional commitment to the respect of fundamental rights;

11. Reiterates its concern on the practice of bringing criminal prosecutions against journalists who communicate evidence of human rights violations or raise other issues in the public interest as a contribution to the debate of a pluralistic society; considers the criminalisation of opinions as a key obstacle to the protection of human rights in Turkey and deplores disproportionate restriction of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly;

12. Urges Turkey to comply rigorously with its international human rights obligations in this respect by amending its relevant legislation and by training its police and judiciary; welcomes in this regard the decision to provide judges and prosecutors with in-service training on freedom of expression and freedom of the press and on the fundamental role of the European Court of Human Rights;

13. Recalls that freedom of expression and media pluralism are at the heart of European values and that a truly democratic, free and pluralistic society requires true freedom of expression; underlines that reform of legislation allowing for disproportionately high fines on the media – leading in some cases to their closure or to self-censorship by journalists or their editors – and of law 5651/2007 on the internet, which limits freedom of expression, restricts citizens’ right to access to information and allows websites bans of disproportionate scope and duration, is very urgent;

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