A draft version of an annual European Union Progress Report on Turkey has announced that Turkey has been making progress on its way to EU accession concerning fields spelled out by the Copenhagen political criteria, but the country should focus on major elements, such as drafting a new constitution, before it can fully comply with the criteria.
The draft report obtained by Today’s Zaman hailed the electoral process during the June 12 general elections in Turkey, saying the process was “free and fair” and generally marked by “pluralism and a vibrant civil society,” while adding that the voting and counting process at the end of the day were carried out in a calm and professional manner. The report, however, also pointed toward a lack of “adequate dialogue” and a “spirit of compromise” between political parties after the elections, which made it difficult for key institutions to cooperate and disrupted the continuation of the reform process in the country.
Touching also on the Sledgehammer trials, the report suggested that it was a point of concern for 224 defendants of the trial when access restrictions were applied to certain evidence cited in the indictment, and officials failed to give detailed grounds for decisions to detain suspects. The report also covered concerns over the confiscation of an unpublished book dubbed the “document of a terrorist organization” as it elaborated on press freedom in Turkey. The case of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) was also another issue that was raised by the report, which stated that, as a result of the case, around 2,000 politicians, locally elected representatives and human rights activists in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast were detained over the past three years.
While the report voiced gaps and concerns over the handling of the legal process, it acknowledged that the investigations, particularly Ergenekon, remained an opportunity for Turkey “to shed light on alleged criminal activities against democracy,” as well as to strengthen confidence in “the proper functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
The margins of the report also noted that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has begun work on implementing constitutional reforms approved in a referendum held in September 2010, with reforms in judicial structures being the priority on the AK Party agenda. “The governing party has pledged a democratic and participatory process with the broadest possible consultation,” the report acknowledged and cited consultations between government officials and other involved parties, as well as a website that is aimed to be a forum for public contributions to the process. The report praised the new constitution as an element that would “cement the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the respect for and protection of minorities, including the Kurdish issue.”
The report also recognized President Abdullah Gül as a figure that “continues to maintain his conciliatory role in the face of the polarization prevailing in the country” and one that plays an active role in foreign policy. It also suggested that Turkey should make the establishment of an ombudsman’s office a priority.
The EU progress report, the final outcome of 12 monthly assessments for the country in question, is published yearly for each candidate state, evaluating the country’s performance towards EU membership.
04 October 2011, Tuesday / SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, BRUSSELS