Progress report on Turkey (2013)

Source: M.G.H.C. (Ria) Oomen-Ruijten i, published on Tuesday, February 11 2014, 1:38.

My introduction on Turkey in the Foreign Affairs Committee this morning:

Dear Colleagues,

On the 9th of December 2013, we had our first consideration of the draft resolution on Turkey in this committee. It would be an understatement to say that there have been some developments in the meantime.

I think I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say that we are deeply concerned about recent developments in Turkey. This is one of the reasons that we have decided to take some more time for the finalization of the resolution, in order to allow a proper and in depth reflection of the events.

Tackling corruption at all levels is an important element of a functioning rule of law, and expect the investigations that were started on the 17th of December to be continued unhindered. However, recent developments have raised concerns with regards to impartiality of the investigations and the separation of powers.

With regard to the rules regulating the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the European Parliament has consistently mentioned that the formal role of the Minister of Justice in this Council as a source of concern. Any move to increase this role would also increase our concerns. Therefore, we ask the Turkish government to refrain from interference in judicial proceedings and to make sure that regulations are in line with the principles of independence of the judiciary, separation of powers as well as the relevant articles of the Constitution. We strongly advice the Turkish Authorities that cooperation with the Venice commission is crucial in this regard.

The draft resolution expressed concerns with regard to freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey. As European Parliament we consistently asked Turkey to reform Law 5651/2007 on the internet, which limits freedom of expression, restricts citizens' right of access to information and allows website bans of disproportionate scope and duration. The European Court of Human Rights found the law to be in breach of the European Convention in 2012. However, recently adopted amendments to the law do not remove these concerns, they raise additional concerns.

We had a first constructive meeting with the shadow rapporteurs last week in Strasbourg and I am confident that we will find consensus to express our concerns about all these issues.

On a personal note, I would like to thank former ministers Sadullah Ergin of Justice and Fatma Sahin of Family and Social Policies for their constant efforts and commitment to reforms in Turkey, and the excellent way in which they have always sought the cooperation with European partners. I met the new Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Mevlüt Çavusoglu. I welcome his efforts to discuss and bring together Turkey and the European Union.

To end my contribution today on a positive note, I am very pleased that the negotiations on Cyprus have resumed today, and I wholeheartedly hope that they will lead to a permanent solution of the conflict. I call on all colleagues to not use our resolution on Turkey as a platform to increase the complexity of those negotiations. I therefore ask support for the position as adopted in previous years, providing strong support for the reunification of Cyprus, based on a fair and viable settlement for both communities in accordance with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

I thank you for your attention.