Turkey still has a long way to go to meet EU's accession criteria


By Sharif Behruz

October 26, 2010

Members of European Parliament on Monday welcomed recent Turkish constitutional reforms, describing them as a step forward, while stressing that much remains to be done to ensure full respect for human rights. The biggest concerns discussed at a public hearing in Parliament were the lack of press freedom, the imprisonment of conscientious objectors and the situation of the Kurdish minority.

Since 1963, when Turkey was accepted as an associate member of the European Community (EC), Turkey has striven for admission as a full member of that body, now called the European Union, the association of most European states that comprises the world’s wealthiest and most successful trading bloc.

The political obstacles to EU membership concern Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies. Because the European body prides itself on being an association of democracies, the harshness of repression, especially against the Kurdish minority in Turkey, under the military regime and subsequent civilian governments since the 1980 military coup have further disturbed the EU.

EU members have also expressed reservations about Turkey’s human rights record. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two prominent human rights monitoring organizations, have reported the persistence of practices such as arbitrary arrests, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture in prisons, and censorship.

Even though, the EU welcomes many of the positive developments in Turkey in regards to the general opening on the issues that were traditionally considered as ‘taboos’ in Turkish society, there exist many reservations on part of the EU member states who believe Turkey still has a long way to go, especially in areas of minority rights, to be able to enjoy full membership in the EU.

While welcoming any initiatives on part of the state for the betterment of the rights of its citizens especially its long-deprived Kurds, the concerns on part of the EU member states are fully justified as:

  • Hundreds of Kurdish journalists, mayors, deputies and high ranking members of pro-Kurdish political parties have been forcibly brought to court to testify on charges of promoting a “terrorist organization”.
  • The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party or DTP was banned by the constitutional court in 2008 for its alleged ties to Kurdistan Workers’ Party or better know as PKK, considered a “terrorist” organization, and its leaders, among them Ahmed Turk and Aysel Tagluk were banned from politics for 5 years.
  • Last week alone, 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, went on trial for alleged links with PKK again at a time when the Turkish government of Erdogan is engaged in efforts to reconcile with the members of Kurdish ethnic minority.
  • On the issue of public broadcasting, it is true that the government has eased restriction on pro-government broadcasting in the Kurdish language; however, the government still strives to shut down Kurdish Satellite stations stationed in Europe, and prosecutes broadcasters advocating Kurdish rights and demands under the auspices of “terrorism” charges. Penal law is still used to prosecute journalists and more than 6000 websites have been closed down.
  • “The military forces continue to play an important role, which is incompatible with a modern state” as one of the MEP noted, and the government, AKP included, still think that the Kurdish question can be solved by military means.

As a Komar.org.us editorial abruptly put it “The current Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is regarded as the AKP’s strategic thinker, has correctly argued that without a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, Turkey will not be able to achieve its ambitious foreign policy objectives…” that is joining the EU.

Indeed, Turkish society has undergone drastic changes; however, the state still adheres to the fundamentals of its founders, and until this changes, the EU and its various institutions have every right to block and deny Turkey full membership in the EU.

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