Turkey to soon outline key EU reform documents

Turkey to soon outline key EU reform documents

As suggested by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Dec. 25, Turkey is working on a road map with the European Union to create a positive atmosphere for future ties. It’s also in talks with France after months of mutual megaphone diplomacy that resulted in an unprecedented deterioration in ties. Ankara and Paris seem to have agreed on a road map that includes the desire to avoid harsh mutual criticisms through the media so as to mend their ties in the coming period.

This de-escalation in ties with the European Union is expected to provide a much more convenient climate for Turkey to proceed with the reform process promised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in recent weeks. The government is currently drafting several documents in a bid to address Turkey’s immediate needs in the field of democracy, human rights and freedoms.

One of the most important documents to be introduced soon by the government is the Human Rights Action Plan. The Justice Ministry is expected to finalize the document soon after necessary consultations with the Council of Europe and the European Union. The question of whether the drafted action plan corresponds to European standards will be critical.

In the meantime, preparations for a meeting of the Reform Action Group (REG) are accelerating. The REG, which is composed of senior representatives from the interior, justice and foreign ministries, met twice in late 2019, but it had no opportunity to sustain the meeting in 2020. A subcommittee meeting for the REG was convened in the past week with hopes that it will gather again in early 2021.

Another key document – the National Action Plan for 2021-2023 – will be announced by the Directorate for EU Affairs. It will constitute the main road map to consolidate Turkey’s efforts to harmonize its acquis with the European Union. The Action Plan will detail around 200 primary legislative moves and around 100 secondary actions that the government will legislate in the said period. If the political obstacles that hinder Turkish-EU relations are removed, the government believes it could ramp up the accession process and open more chapters in the future.

Equally important is the content of the proposed reforms and their implementation. Many in Ankara who are familiar with all these efforts underline that the time has come for Turkey to actually enact genuine democratic reforms. They recall the trauma Turkey experienced in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt that decisively shifted the security-freedoms balance to the former. Turkey is much more stable now and can proceed with reforms in two key areas in particular, namely, freedom of expression and long detention periods. However, the real impact of the proposed reforms will only be seen when they’re fully implemented.

Any human rights reform without a major change in the government’s actions or the judiciary’s understanding will, of course, devalue the actions to be taken on this front. 

There is a chance for Turkey and the European Union to upgrade their ties in the coming period, meaning both sides have their homework to do. Ankara should take the lead and fulfill its responsibilities so it can push Brussels to respond adequately and cease its discriminative stance over the former’s accession process.

Serkan Demirtaş,