Turkey continues to move further away from the European Union with serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law, fundamental rights, freedoms, the new presidential system, separation of powers and growing political polarization according to the union’s commission 2019 Enlargement Package published on Wednesday.
Presented by the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the EU commissioner for enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn in a press conference, the package included Turkey’s country report.
It also included six Western Balkans states’, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia.
In Turkey’s report, the EC presents a detailed assessment of the state of play in the candidate country, of what has been achieved over the last year and set out guidelines on reform priorities.
The report questioned the effectiveness of the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures due to processing rate of applications, doubts on individual examination and unavailability of hearings.
The inquiry commission was formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to review all complaints individually regarding adopted 36 degrees during a two-year state of emergency, which the EC says constrained certain human rights such as the dismissal of more than 152,000 public officials.
The EC criticized the Turkish judiciary with regards to its performance and independence as mass detentions, even sometimes without indictment, continue. The report recommended that allegations of wrongdoing need to be examined through transparent procedures on an individual basis. Every individual should have the right to a fair trial.
The report says Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation with political pressure on judges and prosecutors, transfers of a large number of judges and prosecutors against their will and large scale recruitments of new judges and prosecutors.
In terms of human and fundamental rights, Turkey has been seriously backsliding, according to the EC. As of December 2018, the total number of people in prison without indictment or pending trial was 57,000, more than 20% of the total prison population. This has reportedly led to prison overcrowding.
Freedom of expression in Turkey has been severely restricted as the prosecutions of dissidents reached high numbers like it is the case in insulting the president offenses.
The report emphasized the importance of the separation of powers in Turkey, warning of power centralization through a new presidential system in the country.
Elections in Turkey were criticized for unequal conditions for contestants but praised for strong turnouts.
Together with the latest polls in the country, political polarization has been deepened, according to the EC.
The EC expressed its concern about the independence of the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) against political pressure, as it has recently ruled a rerun election in Istanbul and did not grant the mayorship of some Kurdish populated municipalities.
The EC called on Turkey to ease the tension with the Republic of Cyprus by respecting its sovereign rights to explore and exploit natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The report thanked Turkey for its intensified efforts pertaining to the refugee issue, as irregular crossings from Turkey to the EU have declined.