EU to call for stricter oversight of military in Turkey

Although the European Union is pleased that Turkey has in recent years boosted civilian oversight of the military, it is preparing to ask Turkey to further consolidate its oversight and implement reforms to the military justice system.

EU to call for stricter oversight of military in Turkey

World Bulletin/News Desk                        

Although the European Union is pleased that Turkey has in recent years boosted civilian oversight of the military, it is preparing to ask Turkey to further consolidate its oversight and implement reforms to the military justice system.

“The introduction of parliamentary oversight of the defense budget, although limited in practice, is a positive development. Further reforms, particularly of the military justice system and civilian oversight of the Gendarmerie, are needed,” says a document expressing the joint stance of the 27 EU member states.

According to the draft EU position paper obtained by Today's Zaman, the EU welcomes the recent consolidation of civilian oversight of the security forces with regard to civil-military relations. It's noteworthy that the EU position paper, which the EU will present to the Turkish delegation at the 51st meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council in Brussels on May 27, has a more positive wording than previous papers.

While Turkey is offered strong support on the settlement of the Kurdish issue and in its efforts to draw up a new constitution, it's in the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the press that Turkey is most harshly criticized. “Restrictions in practice on the freedom of the media, including the large number of legal cases launched against writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, frequent website bans, as well as the chilling effect of pressure on the press by state officials and the firing of critical journalists remain a source of concern, and need to be addressed effectively,” the draft document says.

With the expression “firing of critical journalists,” a reference is implicitly being made to the case of Hasan Cemal, a columnist who left the daily Milliyet in March when the daily chose not to publish one of his articles in which he had criticized the attitude of the government toward the media.

The EU also welcomes the adoption by Parliament of the Fourth Judicial Reform Package recently introduced by the government, seeing it as a positive step in the direction of furthering freedom of expression. Hope is expressed in the EU document that the fourth package will help the courts of law make verdicts on cases related to the freedom of expression that are in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. “The EU is looking forward to the swift implementation of the package in order to properly address issues restricting fundamental rights in practice, including media freedom, the right to a fair trial and the right of assembly … ” the document says.

In the EU position paper, the constitutional reform process is often positively cited and the EU offers strong support. The EU notes that the drawing up of a new constitution is an opportunity to consolidate judicial reform and to reinforce the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. It is also noted in the document that the constitutional reform process may serve as a useful framework for the resolution of Turkey's fundamental problems.

The EU also declares support for the settlement process of the Kurdish issue, which the government began with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), at the end of last year to put an end to a 30-year-long armed conflict. “The EU fully supports the ongoing talks,” the document says.

The document cites as positive steps in the area of democracy and rule of law: the establishment of an ombudsman, of a national human rights institution, achievements in women's rights and gender equality, Parliament's adoption of the third and fourth judicial reform packages and consolidation of civilian oversight over the military.

While it is said in the draft document that the acceleration of accession negotiations for Turkey's full membership in the EU is in the interests of both the EU and Turkey, in order that the EU remains the benchmark for reforms in Turkey, Turkey is reminded that it needs to fulfill its obligations, saying: “Turkey will be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfillment of benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU including the full and the non-discriminatory implementation of the additional protocol to the association agreement towards all member states.”

The Cyprus problem is often cited in the document which, as it reflects the common attitude of all 27 EU members, includes Greek Cyprus. Concern is expressed in the document, which asks Turkey to open its sea and air ports to ships and planes of Greek Cyprus without delay and about threats made by Turkey towards member countries. “[…] the Union expresses serious concern and urges Turkey to avoid of [sic] any kind of threat or action directed against a member state, or source of friction and actions which could damage good neighborly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.” the document says.

The EU makes it clear in the document that Greek Cyprus is considered to have the right as a sovereign state per international law to exploit natural resources in the Mediterranean, something which Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) call into question.

Apart from the Cyprus issue, Turkey's foreign policy is praised by the document, which calls for boosting coordination between Turkey and the EU in regions ranging from Syria, the Middle East, North Africa, western Balkans, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the area of corruption, it's said in the document that corruption is still widespread and that there is no efficient strategy to combat it. Turkey needs to develop a track record of legal investigations and convictions in corruption cases, the document notes.

Regarding trade union rights, the picture is not so bright, according to the EU. Though acknowledging that progress has been made through the adoption of the latest law, which was passed by Parliament at the end of last year, on trade unions, the EU is insistent that further progress is needed in order to make Turkey's legal framework fully compliant with EU and International Labour Organization standards. “Progress on this issue remains essential for the opening of the negotiating chapter on social policy and employment,” the document says.

In the area of torture and abuse, the EU is pleased that the number of such cases has significantly decreased in recent years. But it is noted that security forces still often resort to an excessive use of force against people in demonstrations. The legal immunity of civil servants is also criticized in the document.

With regard to religious freedom, the EU puts emphasis solely on the rights of non-Muslims and Alawites. The Greek Orthodox seminary in Heybeliada should be allowed to be opened and the ecumenical status of the patriarch should be recognized, the EU says.

Last Mod: 18 Mayıs 2013, 09:27
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