EP Report on Turkey underlines serious concerns

The European Parliament yearly report on Turkey published on Tuesday said that “despite the lifting of the state of emergency in July 2018, the adverse impacts of the two-year long emergency ruling continued to significantly impact on democracy and fundamental rights.”

The report added that “the situation in the south-east of the country continued to be very worrying, despite an improved security environment. The replacement of 47 democratically elected HDP municipal mayors by centrally-appointed trustees in the south-east put the results of the democratic process of the 31 March 2019 local elections into question. Arrests and dismissals of elected mayors and party representatives continued and seriously damaged local democracy.”

Key recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies are yet to be addressed, stressed the report, adding that “concerns remained, in particular over the systemic lack of independence of the judiciary.”

As to human rights, the report said: “The deterioration of human and fundamental rights continued. Many of the measures introduced during the state of emergency remained in force and continued to have a profound and devastating impact,” and added: “Credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a controversial legislative package provided for the conditional release of up to 90,000 prisoners. As of July, 65,000 prisoners had been released. However, it excluded those held in pre-trial detention for alleged terrorism-related offences, including lawyers, journalists, politicians and human rights defenders.”

The report also highlighted the “serious backsliding continued on freedom of expression. The disproportionate implementation of the restrictive measures continued to negatively affect the freedom of expression and dissemination of opposition voices. Criminal cases and convictions of journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, writers and social media continued.”

As to migration, the report said: “Turkey still did not implement the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement towards all Member States nor the provisions relating to third-country nationals. Despite an announced acceleration of work on visa liberalisation, no outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks were fulfilled and amendments to the anti-terror law and data protection law are still outstanding. Turkey still needs to further align its legislation with the EU acquis on visa policy.”

And on Turkey’s foreign policy the report had this to say: “[It]increasingly collided with the EU priorities under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean region further increased in the reporting period as a result of Turkey’s illegal actions and provocative statements challenging the right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit hydrocarbon resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.”

The report added: “The EU condemned Turkey’s unilateral military action in north-east Syria and urged Turkey to end its military action, withdraw its forces and respect international humanitarian law. The vast majority of Member States decided to halt arms export licensing to Turkey.”