EU progress report critical of the situation in Turkey

Releasing the delayed 2015 report on Turkey, the European Commission has emphasised an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights in the Turkish State.

Releasing the delayed 2015 report on Turkey, the European Commission has emphasised an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights in the Turkish State.

The report on Turkey, a part of the 2015 enlargement package adopted today by the European Commission, remarked that significant shortcomings affected the judiciary as well as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as Turkey saw a severe deterioration of its security situation.

The report put emphasis on the essentiality of the peace talks to resume after the settlement process of the Kurdish issue came to a halt despite earlier positive developments on the issue. According to the Commission, the new government formed after the repeat election on 1 November will need to address these urgent priorities.

Highlighting a severe deterioration of Turkey's security situation, the report recalled that Turkish authorities launched an extensive anti-terror military and security campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) both in Turkey and in Iraq.

Describing 10 October's Ankara bombing as the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey's modern history, the EU report said "it is essential that swift and transparent investigations are conducted into these heinous acts which were aimed to destabilise and harm Turkey's democracy".

The report emphasised that Turkey's commitment to EU accession was offset by the adoption of key legislation in the area of the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly that ran against European standards, adding; "The President remained engaged in a wide range of key domestic and foreign policy issues, which led within Turkey to criticism that he was overstepping constitutional prerogatives."

Referring to the situation in the area of the judiciary, The European Commission report stated that the independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined since 2014 and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure. The report emphasised that substantial efforts are needed to restore the independence of the judiciary.

According to the report, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms had considerably improved over the past few years but major shortcomings remain as the enforcement of rights stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is not yet fully ensured.

Remarking that there is an urgent need to adopt a comprehensive framework law on combating discrimination in line with European standards, the report said Turkey also needs to effectively guarantee the rights of women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and ensure sufficient attention to the social inclusion of vulnerable groups such as the Roma.

The report also highlighted a significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, saying that legislation on internal security contradicts the measures outlined in the March 2014 action plan on the prevention of violations of the ECHR by granting broad discretionary powers to the law enforcement agencies without adequate oversight.

Pointing out that the escalation of violence in the Kurdish region since July gave rise to serious concerns over human rights violations, the report said; "Anti-terror measures taken in this context need to be proportionate. Turkey should widen the scope and improve the monitoring of the implementation of the action plan."

The report by European Commission further stressed that; "After several years of progress on freedom of expression, serious backsliding was seen over the past two years, with some level of preparation in this field. Ongoing and new criminal cases against journalists, writers or social media users, intimidation of journalists and media outlets as well as the authorities' actions curtailing freedom of media are of considerable concern. Changes to the internet law are a significant step back from European standards."