Turkey aims to exit from CoE monitoring process ASAP

Turkey aims to exit from CoE monitoring process ASAP

One of the most dramatic consequences of the heinous July 2016 coup attempt was the sharp decline in Turkey’s ties with European countries and European institutions.

Among many others, the two-year long deterioration resulted in the halt of the Turkey-European Union accession process and the reopening of the monitoring procedure for Turkey by the parliamentary body of the Council of Europe (CoE). Both were the result of a worsened situation of democracy, fundamental freedoms, rule of law and etc. under emergency rule.

As many are aware, the post-June 2018 elections has observed an intensified effort by the Turkish government for fixing damaged ties and putting things back on track in regards to ties with European governments and institutions.

On the bilateral front, particularly in ties with Germany, France and the Netherlands, Turkey’s efforts yielded results as mending relations with Turkey were to the common interest of the said countries, especially in the fields of economy, security, migration as well as with concerns to Syria.

Rebuilding institutional ties, however, will require time and concrete actions as the Turkish government is yet to address appeals by the EU and the CoE on democracy, fundamental freedoms and rule of law.

The government had convened the Reform Action Group with the participation of four ministers in late August after a three-year break in a bid to demonstrate its will to re-launch political reform process. The EU is closely following whether the government will be able to turn its words into deeds, although it is not that optimistic at this stage.

Turkey’s renewed efforts also correspond to the expectations of the CoE. Ties between Turkey and the CoE have been seriously damaged over a number of reasons. Turkey had criticized the CoE for giving a human rights award to a FETÖ-linked fugitive and for opening its floors to PKK sympathizers. In reaction, Turkey has abandoned its status as Grand Payeur.

On the other hand, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted in favor of reopening the monitoring procedure for Turkey in April 2017 because of scores of violations of CoE standards.

At a conference held by the TOBB University of Economics and Technology last week, Faruk Kaymakçı deputy Foreign Minister responsible of EU affairs, cited these problems between Ankara and Strasbourg but also emphasized that the two were still in close cooperation over a number of issues.

For example, Kaymakçı informed that Turkey was seeking the cooperation of the CoE in its efforts to upgrading its judicial strategy by the end of this year.

More importantly, the seasoned diplomat underlined the government’s will to exit from the monitoring procedure as soon as possible.

Recalling that PACE had introduced eight conditions and that Turkey has already met three of them by lifting the state of emergency, Kaymakçı expressed his belief that Turkey would soon exit from the monitoring procedures.

The eight conditions of PACE have been listed as follows:

“Lift the state of emergency as soon as possible; in the meantime, halt the publication of emergency decree laws which bypass parliamentary procedures, unless strictly needed under the state of emergency, and put an end to the collective dismissal of civil servants through emergency decree laws; release all the detained parliamentarians and co-mayors pending trial; release all the imprisoned journalists pending trial; establish, and launch the work of, the Inquiry Commission on State of Emergency Measures to ensure an effective national judicial remedy for those dismissed through emergency decree laws; ensure fair trials with respect for due procedural guarantees; take urgent measures to restore freedom of expression and of the media, implement as soon as possible the recommendations of the Venice Commission concerning the constitutional amendments.”

Considering the aforementioned expectations and the current level of the government’s devotion to upgrading Turkey’s democratic norms, one can suggest that exiting from the monitoring procedure will not be that easy.

It should be well understood by the government that putting things back on track with regard to these two key European bodies requires a full dedication to democratizing Turkey without delay. Releasing imprisoned journalists, academics and other dissidents would be a good beginning to this end as well as for the government’s plan to upgrading the judicial strategy.