Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has come under fire in the aftermath of an annual report released by the European Commission on Tuesday which stated that backsliding in democracy, human and fundamental rights and the Turkish judicial system continued, also underlining serious deficiencies in the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions.
According to the report, the Turkish parliament lacked the necessary means to hold the government accountable during the reporting period, and Turkey’s constitutional architecture continued to centralize powers at the level of the presidency without ensuring a sound and effective separation of powers.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and former ambassador Ünal Çeviköz on Thursday said in a written statement that the language used in the report sounded as if Turkey was a “third country” and no longer a candidate for EU membership, adding that it was because of the AKP government’s poor management of the accession process since it came to power in 2002.
“Due to mismanagement by the AKP government, which took over a Turkey that would start negotiations with the EU for full membership [in 2002], Turkey-EU relations have regressed to the level of a third country today,” Çeviköz, also the vice president of parliament’s EU Harmonization Committee, argued.
Underlining that the AKP should take into account the EU criticism regarding the continued deterioration of human rights in the country, the presidential system and the deficiencies in judicial independence, Çeviköz said, “The government cannot fight the accusations facing Turkey with such an attitude of disregard.”
Opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Deputy Chairman Mustafa Yeneroğlu also accused the AKP in a written statement released on Thursday of abandoning the efforts to become a member of the EU.
“It is openly stated in the report that Turkey has put aside its efforts to meet the European Union [accession] criteria on almost every topic. The EU standards are an indispensable goal of progress regarding democratic rights, principles of the rule of law, economic development and more. … We urge the government to immediately take concrete steps to fulfill the EU criteria,” Yeneroğlu said.
Describing the report as “a photo of Turkey’s miserable condition,” the MP added: “Democratic institutions and mechanisms don’t work. … The president and the government aren’t taking any steps to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The fight against corruption and bribery isn’t being carried out effectively. … They can’t ensure that public institutions operate in accordance with the principles of accountability and transparency.”
Turkey and the EU began membership talks in 2005, but the process has come to a standstill in recent years. Countries aspiring to become members must align their laws and legislation in 35 policy areas, or negotiating chapters. EU leaders agreed in 2018 that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations should be opened or closed.