The EU commission yesterday, issued its annual progress report on Turkey’s accession process for EU membership.
The 80 page document is extensive and wide-ranging; edited selections are shown below to reflect previous articles published by LGC.
The events at Gezi Park this summer have clearly left their mark. Under the heading of ‘Democracy and the rule of law’, the commission refers to the incidents that took place at Gezi Park in late May, where peaceful protests against an urban development in the heart of Istanbul were met with brutal force by the police. It noted that the protests, which included other demands, spread across the country.
Six people died, including one policeman, thousands were injured, some of them severely, over 3 500 were taken into police custody, of whom over 112 remained in detention on judge’s decision, including members of NGOs participating in the Taksim Solidarity Platform (a grouping of associations active on the Gezi Park issue). Out of that figure 108 persons were detained on suspicion of being a member of a terror organisation.
“The excessive use of force by police and the overall absence of dialogue during the protests in May/June have raised serious concerns,” it said.
The report goes on to comment that President Gul’s attitude was conciliatory towards Turkey’s political spectrum and civil society, noting that he had defended the right to free speech and free association and had warned against the polarisation of Turkish society.
In the commission’s section on ‘Civil society’, it was noted that there was burgeoning activity in Turkey’s civil society; Gezi Park being an illustration of this effect.
It goes on to say that civil society had some challenges to overcome since the traditional political attitude was that civilians did not hold much of a stake in the democratic process.
Later on the report comments that there were many journalists and writers still held in prison and that the recently introduced Judicial Reform packages had not made any amendments to Article 314 under which these people were being held on criminal charges.
On the issue of Cyprus, the commission acknowledges Turkey’s express support for the Cyprus negotiations however, it stresses the Greek Cypriot Republic’s right to exploit hydrocarbons in its EEZ and its right to enter bilateral agreements with other agencies. Turkey has disputed the South’s sovereignty over territories which Turkey claims as part of its own continental shelf.
Turkey is also criticised for not removing its obstacles over the free movement of goods and direct transport links with the South, which it refuses to recognise.
EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule said yesterday, that it was time to put Turkey’s EU accession process back on track in the context of this latest report and added that:
“I have heard voices who said that the right response of the EU to events in Gezi Park should be for the Union to disengage. But the message of the package adopted today is different: the EU needs to step up its engagement and continue to support Turkey and Turkish citizens in fulfilling their legitimate expectations of further reforms that can strengthen freedom of expression, freedom of media and freedom of assembly”.