European Commission report highlights “serious shortcomings” in Turkish democracy

The European Commission (EC) has highlighted “serious failings in the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey” in its “key findings of the 2021 report on Turkey” which was published in Strasbourg yesterday 19 October.

The document noted a continued centralization of powers in the presidency under Recep Tayyip Erdogan without a “separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary”. He said the only control of executive power was the limited elections.

“The democratic retreat continued during the period under review. The structural deficiencies of the presidential system remained in place. The main recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies remain to be addressed. Parliament still lacked the necessary means to hold the government to account, ”the report said in its introduction.

He noted that targeting of opposition parties continued and that these weakened political pluralism in Turkey.

“Serious setbacks have continued with regard to freedom of expression. The legislation and its implementation, in particular the provisions relating to national security and the fight against terrorism, continued to violate the European Convention on Human Rights and other international standards and to deviate of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

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According to the report, the rights of disadvantaged and minority groups need to be better protected and it is noted that Roma remain largely excluded from formal employment.

“Gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people remain a matter of serious concern,” the report notes.

Turkey has made progress on migration and asylum policy, with the EU-Turkey declaration of March 2016 continuing to play a key role in ensuring “effective management of migration flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route” .

COVID-19 restrictions were cited for the suspension of the EU-Turkey statement. The EC reported that although the volume of irregular arrivals in Greece has decreased, smuggling routes to Italy and areas controlled by the government of Cyprus continued to be used, but the total number of crossings between the Turkey and Greece was at a much lower level than before the implementation of the EU-Turkey declaration.

He added that Turkey had continued “to make significant efforts to welcome and respond to the needs of the largest refugee community in the world”. Turkey must improve access to public health for migrants and refugees and further align visa legislation with that of the EU.

The EC report stated that Turkish foreign policy “conflicts with the priorities of the EU … not least because of its support for military action in the Caucasus, Syria and Iraq”.

“Turkey’s military support in Libya, including the deployment of foreign fighters on the ground, and its persistent criticism and lack of cooperation with Operation IRINI, undermine the EU’s effective contribution to the implementation of the UN arms embargo, and led to approaching conflicts over Libya. “

“Turkey has continued to assert the validity of the Turkish-Libyan maritime delimitation and military agreements of 2019. The EU considers this to be a violation of the sovereign rights of third states, not respecting the law of the sea and having no legal consequences for third States. . “

He noted that while Turkey shared the EU’s hopes for a stable and prosperous Syria, it had continued its own military actions in northern Syria, including using militias backed by Turkey.

In the eastern Mediterranean, tensions fell at the start of the year as Turkey halted its exploration for hydrocarbons in the sea areas of Greece and Cyprus.

“However, in early October Turkish warships prevented the Nautical Geo from investigating the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, and Turkey issued a NAVTEX for the conduct of seismic surveys that would include parts of the EEZ of Cyprus In addition, Turkey has continued to take steps to change the status of the fenced city of Varosha with unacceptable unilateral decisions that run counter to relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

“Turkey must unequivocally engage in good neighborly relations, international agreements and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, resorting, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice.

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On the economic front, the report notes that the Turkish economy is “well advanced” but that it made no progress during the period under review and that “serious concerns” persist as to its functioning “.

The report noted that Turkey’s ability to meet the obligations of EU membership was “very limited and has been pursued on a rather ad hoc basis”.

“In all areas, implementation and enforcement need to be drastically improved. Guaranteeing the independence of regulatory authorities and developing administrative capacity are essential for Turkey to make further progress ”, concludes the EC report.

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