World Bulletin / News Desk
The European Commission has insisted on labeling the constitutional reform package to be voted on at a Sept. 12 referendum as “a step in the right direction,” despite concerns expressed by a group of Turkish intellectuals who suggested that the constitutional amendments hardly represented a break from the overall orientation of the current Constitution, which has increased the power of the government over autonomous institutions.
Last month, a group of intellectuals and representatives from civil society organizations sent a joint letter addressed to EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle; the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton; the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten; the co-chairperson of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Hélène Flautre; and several members of the European Parliament.
In their letter, the 30 signatories said the package "failed to meet the expectations of those who recognized the need for a new constitution".
“The atmosphere created around the debate on the constitutional amendment is alarming. Any criticism, either of the procedures or the content, is almost invariably met with labeling and stigmatizing. Accusations of being in favor of a status quo created by the military, or being against Turkey's accession to the EU, are directed at people who are critical of the amendment process. In this atmosphere, the opinions of EU officials and representatives are presented to the Turkish public as lending uncritical support to the amendment package. This is done in complete disregard of sensibilities concerning consensus building and political representation,” the signatories said.
The letter was responded to by the EU on Sept. 6 and was signed by Michael Leigh, the director-general for enlargement of the European Commission.
“In the framework of its duty to monitor developments in candidate countries for EU accession, the commission conducted a thorough and in depth review of the proposed amendments to the Constitution, based on European standards, as well as practices in EU Member States. We have come to a balanced analysis. Credit is given where credit is due, and encouragements are expressed where reforms remain to be achieved, especially as the constitutional amendments will only take effect through sustained efforts on the ground. The commission will present a detailed assessment in our next yearly Progress Report on Turkey, scheduled for November,” Leigh said in his letter on behalf of the EU executive body.
“Meanwhile, I can only repeat the position as expressed by Commissioner Füle on behalf of the European Commission: on substance, these reforms, if adopted, are a step in the right direction. It is, however, regrettable that they were not preceded by a wide, inclusive consultation process across the political spectrum and the civil society at large. In the end, the real effect and success of these changes will depend on a proper implementation on the ground, which the commission will follow with utmost attention and without any complacency,” Leigh added.
In July, during an EU-Turkey High Level Political Dialogue meeting held in İstanbul, Füle announced the EU's support of Turkey's constitutional reform efforts, saying the package of amendments to the current Constitution were mostly consistent with EU expectations.
“… if the package passes the referendum test, the commission encourages all stakeholders and notably the Turkish authorities to ensure the widest possible transparency, dialogue and spirit of compromise during the phase of adoption of the implementing legislation following the 12 September. This is all the more crucial since such an approach was absent so far, and no opposition party voted in favor of the package. It is our sincere wish to see more bridges being built between different segments of Turkish society. Finally, the referendum will not be the end of the journey. The commission considers this package a step in the right direction. On 13 September, Turkey will have to continue to pursue its reform efforts, to further expand the rights and freedoms of its citizens and, thus, to fully meet the EU accession criteria,” Leigh concluded.
Selma Acuner of European Women's Lobby-European Policy Action Centre (EPAC)-VAW; Tatyos Bebek, former board member of the Turkish Association of Medical Doctors; Aydın Cıngı, former secretary-general of the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV); Süleyman Çelebi, president of the Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK); Kazım Genç, secretary-general of the Federation of Alevi and Bektaşi Associations; Feride Acar, professor of political science at Middle East Technical University; Ayşe Buğra, professor of political economy at Boğaziçi University; İbrahim Kaboğlu, professor of constitutional law at Marmara University; Rıza Türmen, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights; Şevket Pamuk, professor of economic history at Boğaziçi University; and Binnaz Toprak, professor of political science at Bahçeşehir University, are among signatories of the letter sent from Turkey.
EU defends Turkish reform package against naysayer intellectuals
The European Commission has insisted on labeling the constitutional reform package to be voted on at a Sept. 12 referendum as "a step in the right direction," despite concerns expressed by a group of Turkish intellectuals.
World Bulletin / News Desk