EU’s Draft Progress Report full of harsh criticism against Turkey’s AKP Gov’t

The European Union’s draft progress report on Turkey for 2014, the final version of which will be released in October, has expressed deep concern over a corruption scandal seriously implicating the government, the executive’s intervention in the judiciary, violations of the rule of law and limitations on press freedom, according to an 80-page-long outline that Today’s Zaman acquired on Friday.

Harshly criticizing the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the draft especially focuses on a graft scandal that erupted last December, expressing deep concern that the government’s handling of the corruption accusations has huge potential to damage judicial independence, as well as block its efficiency and performance with regard to public administration.

The EU draft report does not give credit to fabricated accusations of a “parallel state,” which aim to smear the faith-based Hizmet movement.

The report that Today’s Zaman received also underlined that the government’s way of handling the graft claims has caused concerns in the EU regarding the government’s ability to approach the matter transparently, in a non-discriminatory and impartial manner.

The EU also referred to the fact that the all pieces of legislation enacted by the government following the corruption investigation were enacted hastily and without a proper consultation mechanism with civil society. The draft report also slammed the government for its practices limiting press freedoms through a series of punitive mechanisms.
Highlighting that the ruling AK Party was the first political party in Parliament to withdraw from the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which was established to draw up a more democratic Constitution, the report also said that state funds were used to the benefit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his election campaign.

When compared to the report for 2013, language that is more critical was observed in 2014’s progress report on the economy. The EU warned that a consensus regarding the “political basis of economy” has weakened under the spotlight of recent economic practices undertaken by the government.

As for the government-initiated settlement process aiming to solve the country’s decades-long Kurdish problem, which has already claimed more than 40,000 lives, the report found the steps taken by the government encouraging.

The 17th EU report will be formally released on Oct. 8 and theoretically could be amended up until the last minute, but the diplomatic sources that Today’s Zaman spoke with indicated that no major change is expected in the content and language of the report.

Some highlights:

The Constitution: The Parliamentary Conciliation Committee achieved preliminary consensus on close to 60 of approximately 170 articles for a new constitution. Following a persistent lack of consensus, the AK Party pulled out of the committee in November 2013. The committee was formally dissolved in December. There was no progress on adopting laws implementing provisions on protection of personal data, military justice, or laws introducing affirmative-action measures to promote gender equality, which have been pending since the relevant 2010 constitutional amendments were adopted.
Elections: The first direct presidential elections took place on Aug. 10. The candidate of the ruling party and outgoing Prime Minister Erdoğan was elected president. However, it voiced concerns over the use by the prime minister-presidential candidate of his official position as well as over-biased media coverage, giving him a “distinct advantage” over other candidates. The mission also noted that the legal framework was generally conducive to the conduct of democratic elections, although key areas were in need of improvements, such as campaign finance, comprehensive reporting, and sanction, which limited the transparency and accountability of the process. The elections took place without adequate legal and institutional framework to audit campaign budgets, donations and candidates’ asset disclosures.

Parliament: The wide scope of parliamentary immunity in relation to corruption charges remained unchanged. In May, parliament set up a single parliamentary investigation committee into corruption allegations involving former ministers. The committee has been tasked to advise the plenary to authorize or refuse trials for the accused MPs before the Constitutional Court. After a two-month delay due to the failure of the AK Party to nominate its members, the committee was finally established on 8 July.

Government: There was a significant delay in submitting requests to parliament to lift the immunity of four former ministers implicated in corruption allegations. In response to the allegations of corruption, the government alleged that there had been an attempted judicial coup by a ‘parallel structure’ within the state, controlled by the Gülen movement. Prosecutors and police officers in charge of the original investigations of 17 and 25 December were removed from their post. A significant number of reassignments and dismissals in the police, civil service and the judiciary followed, accompanied by legal measures in the judiciary. A significant number of police officers were detained.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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