World Bulletin / News Desk
The European Commission eulogized both the civil-military relations in Turkey and the progress that was achieved by Turkey on the new constitution while it expressed concerns over freedom of expression in its progress report on Turkey.
The Commission made public its annual progress reports on Turkey and other candidate countries on Wednesday.
It said, "The civilian oversight of the security forces was further consolidated. The General Staff generally refrained from exerting direct or indirect pressure on political issues."
"Several symbolic steps have been taken toward further democratisation of civil-military relations," it said.
The report said, "The 2012 amendments to the Law on the National Intelligence Organization introduced a requirement that the Prime Minister authorize investigations involving members of the intelligence services and public officials to whom the Prime Minister has assigned 'special tasks'. This provides arbitrary immunity for certain public officials, is open to inconsistent interpretation and excludes legal review."
In regard to trials of Ergenekon and the 'Sledgehammer', it said, "Offering a chance to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning of Turkey's democratic institutions and the rule of law, these cases have been overshadowed by real concerns about their wide scope and the shortcomings in judicial proceedings. Moreover, they tend to contribute to the polarization of Turkish politics."
"The Kurdish issue remains a key challenge for Turkey's democracy," it said. The report said that a meeting was held between the Prime Minister and the leader of the main opposition party CHP to make progress on the Kurdish issue, but there was no follow-up.
"Turkey suffered a significant increase in terrorist attacks by the PKK, which is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. The attacks were strongly condemned by the EU," it said.
The progress report said that the investigation into the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK, significantly expanded, stating that increasing numbers of BDP politicians, locally elected mayors and members of municipal councils were detained, adversely affecting regional and local democracy.
"The killing of 34 civilians in Uludere (Sirnak) in a military air strike in December 2011, and the absence of a transparent public inquiry into the events, also damaged confidence," it said.
The report said that revision of the constitution provided an opportunity to address a number of longstanding problems in Turkey, in particular the Kurdish issue.
"Positive steps have been taken in terms of work on a new constitution. A democratic and participatory process has been put in place, albeit with some limitations on transparency," it said, stating that maintaining a spirit of compromise and ensuring the broadest possible consultation remained key for the legitimacy of a new constitution.
The report said that a large number of cases were brought against writers, academics and journalists, scholars and researchers, stating that on a number of occasions journalists have been fired after signing articles openly critical of the government.
"All of this, combined with a high concentration of the media in industrial conglomerates with interests going far beyond the free circulation of information and ideas, has a chilling effect and limits freedom of expression in practice, while making self-censorship a common phenomenon in the Turkish media," it said.