The European Commission (EC) released on November 10 its annual progress report on Turkey’s European Union (EU) candidacy. The report emphasized an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, as widely expected, however, the Union also praised Turkish government’s unprecedented humanitarian aid and support to refugees from Syria and Iraq.
The EU was heavily criticized by the opposition for delaying the release of Turkey’s annual progress report before Turkey’s crucial November 1 snap elections in exchange to Turkish government’s co-operation on refugee problem. The EU denied that it delayed the release of the report with political intensions and said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker decides when the progression reports for the candidate countries will be released. Reuters has leaked on October 28 the details of a copy of the draft annual progress report on Turkey's EU candidacy, citing unnamed sources.
The EC’s progress report criticized Turkish government over significant shortcomings affected the judiciary as well as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, deterioration of security situation and halt of the settlement process of the Kurdish issue. The new government formed after the repeat election on November 1 will need to address these urgent priorities, the EU warned.
The EC, on the contrary, praised Turkey’s advanced and functioning market economy and said that Turkey has continued to align with the acquis, albeit at a slower pace, and has achieved a good level of preparation in many areas.
The pace of reforms slowed down over the past year in Turkey, also due to protracted elections and the continued political divide, the EC said in the latest progress report, adding that the security of the repeat election was ensured despite concerns due to the situation notably in the east and southeast of the country, however, there was an increased pressure on the media which gave cause for serious concern and improvement in 10% election threshold needs to be addressed as a priority.
The commission also warned the government over extensive anti-terror military and security campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said that it is imperative that the peace talks resume. The EU also warned that swift and transparent investigations should be conducted into deadliest terrorist attack occurred in capital Ankara on November 10.
The progress report also criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s engagement in a wide range of key domestic and foreign policy issues, which led within Turkey to criticism that he was overstepping constitutional prerogatives.
Restrictions to freedom of assembly continued to be a serious concern; substantial efforts are needed to restore the independence of the judiciary; the undue influence by the executive in the investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases continues to constitute a major concern; there is an urgent need to adopt a comprehensive framework law on combating discrimination in line with European standards; Turkey also needs to effectively guarantee the rights of women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, according to the EU’s progress report.
There was significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the EU highlighted. Legislation on internal security contradicts with the EU standards, and the recent escalation of violence in the east and southeast since July gave rise to serious concerns over human rights violations, the EU also warned.
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