Press Statement by H.E Egemen Bağış Minister For European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator on Turkey’s Progress Report

PRESS STATEMENT BY H.E. EGEMEN BAĞIŞ

MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN UNION AFFAIRS AND CHIEF NEGOTIATOR

ON TURKEY’S PROGRESS REPORT

31 DECEMBER 2012


TURKEY HAS PREPARED ITS OWN PROGRESS REPORT FOR THE FIRST TIME

Since 1998, the European Commission has been annually preparing Progress Reports on Turkey. This year, the Commission released its 15th Progress Report on Turkey on 10 October 2012.

The aim of the Progress Report is to supposedly present an objective view of candidate and potential candidate countries for EU membership.

However, we have observed that the 2012 Progress Report on Turkey was overshadowed by subjective, biased, groundless and narrow views.

This situation is clearly detrimental to the credibility of the EU in Turkish public opinion and at international level.

The Commission’s various inferences and subjective interpretations, without taking into consideration the courageous steps taken by Turkey for the reforms in the past year, is clearly not an approach that is acceptable.

Indeed, we have clearly and explicitly shared our views on the Progress Report with the public in the press meeting after the publishing of the Report.

THIS IS NOT SIMPLY A REACTION, BUT AN INDICATOR OF OUR DETERMINATION FOR THE REFORMS

We indicated that only our people have the mandate to judge and evaluate our Government.

We promised to “write our own Progress Report”.

Today we have kept the promise we gave on 10 October, after two and a half months, just before the New Year.

Our government has prepared Turkey’s 2012 Progress Report.

This report has not been prepared simply in reaction to the EU’s Progress Report but also to share our country’s determination for the reforms.

Turkey’s own Progress report has been prepared under the coordination of the Ministry for EU Affairs and with the contribution of all relevant Ministries, upon the instruction of our Prime Minister.

It includes the concrete steps taken within the past year for harmonisation with the EU acquis.

It should be emphasised that this report is a first.

Republic of Turkey has written its own Progress Report for the first time.

We believe that it will be beneficial to share with our public our plan to continue with this on a regular basis in the forthcoming years.

The 270 pages Report contain reforms realised in the past year that have moved Turkey closer to EU standards.

WE ARE THE MOST REFORMIST GOVERNMENT OF EUROPE

When the Report is evaluated carefully, it can clearly be seen that, as of 30 December 2012, Turkey is in a position much closer to EU standards.

Today, there is no Government in Europe which is more reformist and has realized more reforms than ours.

During the period of our Government, Turkey has attained a pace in the reforms that left EU member states behind.

This determination is explicitly indicated in our Progress Report.

While the EU member states are struggling with their economic crises, our country is experiencing the most democratic, prosperous and transparent times in its history.

TURKEY’S SELF-CONFIDENCE IS A CHALLENGE TO THE SKEWED MENTALITY IN EUROPE

Turkey's own Progress Report is in fact an evidence of self- confidence.

This Report is a meaningful response for those who question the determination of our country for the reforms.

This Report seals not only Turkey’s EU perspective but also its determination for the EU reform process.

This Report is also Turkey’s response to the skewed mentalities that exploit EU values and our accession process.

Those who criticize Turkey for the slowing down of the reform process and for losing its EU perspective should think twice.

THE “SICK MAN” OF YESTERDAY IS WRITING PRESCRIPTIONS FOR EUROPE TODAY

The “sick man” of yesterday has recovered and is now strong and capable enough to write prescriptions for the problems Europe is facing.

Our objective is to achieve standards in every field through the momentum created by the EU process and further improve the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens.

IT IS NOT ONLY THE GREEK CYPRIOT ADMINISTRATION WHICH HAS GONE BANKRUPT, BUT ALSO THE POLITICAL APPROACH WHICH HAS GIVEN CREDIT TO SUCH SPOILT ATTITUDES

In 2012, we maintained our relations in close cooperation with the European Parliament and the European Commission, during the period of the EU Presidency of the Greek Cypriot Administration, without recognising this quasi state.

In fact, it should be thought provoking not for us but for the EU, that an EU member state has declared bankruptcy during its “so-called” EU Presidency..

One issue in particular needs to be underlined. It is not only the Greek Cypriot Administration which has gone bankrupt, but also the political approach which has given credit to the Greek Cypriot Administration’s spoilt attitudes, that have also resulted in a deadlock on the Island.

WE CONTINUE TO OBTAIN THE FAVORABLE RESULTS OF THE POSITIVE AGENDA

We have also proceeded with our efforts within the scope of the “Positive Agenda” that we initiated with the European Commission during this period.

A HISTORIC THRESHOLD IN VIEW OF VISA LIBERALISATION

We have continued to take significant steps for ensuring visa-free travel for our citizens.

The Council has given mandate to the European Commission to initiate visa talks with Turkey, and thus, a historic threshold has been passed.

We will continue our efforts to lift the obstacles before visa-free travel by maintaining our strong, principled and determined stance.

NEARLY 2000 NEW LEGISLATION IN THE PAST 10 YEARS

Within the context of harmonization works past year, we have approved comprehensive legislation which is very significant for many chapters.

We have put into force approximately 2000 legislation for harmonisation with the EU acquis since 2002.

SOME OF THE REFORMS REALISED IN 2012

The Third Judicial Reform Package entered into force in the fields of political criteria, and chapters on “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights” and “Justice, Freedom and Security”. The work is ongoing concerning the Fourth Judicial Reform Package.

The rate of pre-trial detention which was 49.2% in 2006 has decreased to 23.5% as of December 2012 with the Third Judicial Reform Package and the other reforms.

The extension of the scope of probation and the regulations made with the Third Judicial Package resulted in 33,500 prisoners being released.

It is ensured that the convictions for crimes under Anti-Terror Law are postponed according to general provisions, pronouncement of the judgment is delayed and the judgment is converted into alternative sanctions

The work load of Court of Cassation decreased by one third and the number of finalized cases increased by 40% within the recent year.

The number of cases finalised by the Council of State has increased by one third. It is envisaged that these ratios will further increase in 2012.

Judges and prosecutors are currently participating in the training programs and other activities in the area of judiciary and fundamental rights within the scope of various cooperation activities, particularly expert missions, workshops and study visits under the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) mechanism and the projects carried out as part of Turkey-EU financial cooperation.

Constitutional Court has started to receive individual applications, which is a historic process for the protection and improvement of human rights standards.

The first Ombudsman elected by our Parliament has taken office.

The “mediation" procedure has been introduced for legal disputes.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been ratified.

The Law on Turkish National Human Rights Institution entered into force.

Within the scope of the new 12-year education system, which was revised as 4+4+4, the “Living Languages and Dialects” elective course is offered to the students when there is sufficient demand, beginning at the 5th grade.

The Law Amending the Law on Civil Servants’ Trade Unions entered into force.

The Law on Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements entered into force.

The Law on the Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence against Women entered into force.

The scope of the probation system has been extended.

Continuous dialogue has been carried out with our citizens of different faiths, and it has become possible to return the properties of community foundations which were confiscated for various reasons.

The Law No. 6360 on the Establishment of Metropolitan Municipalities in Thirteen Provinces and of Twenty-Six Districts and Amending Certain Laws and Decree Laws was published in the Official Gazette on 6 December 2012.

Law on the Turkish Court of Accounts entered into force on 19 December 2010.

Political Ethics Conciliation Committee, in which all the political parties at the TGNA are represented equally, was established on 8 May 2012.

With the establishment of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies in June 2011, a structure bringing together units providing services and developing policies for the disabled, children, families, the poor and women was established.

As of 14 March 2012, Turkey became party to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

The Law on the Protection of the Family and Prevention of Violence against Women entered into force on 20 March 2012.

"The National Action Plan to Combat Violence against Women (2012-2015)” entered into force on 10 July 2012.

Centres for Preventing and Monitoring Violence (ŞÖNİM) were opened in 14 provinces in 2012.

The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was signed by Turkey and entered into force on 1 April 2012.

With the Prime Ministry Circular dated 4 April 2012, Children’s Rights Monitoring and Evaluation Board was established.

 “Directorate General of Services for Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly” began to operate under the Ministry of Family and Social Policies established in July 2011.

The number of persons with disabilities recruited through İŞKUR (Turkish Employment Agency) increased significantly.

Our efforts are ongoing to ensure that Roma citizens can have full access to the education, employment and health services and to solve their problems on poor housing conditions.

During visits with the convicts and detainees, the restrictions on the use of languages other than Turkish have been removed.

It has become possible to make written and verbal election propaganda in languages other than Turkish.

The Draft Law amending the Law on Execution of Punishment and Security Measures is on the agenda of TGNA. With the draft, it is envisaged that the defendants can defend themselves in another language which they declare that they can express themselves better.

Activities such as carrying out academic research, offering elective courses and establishing departments/institutes related to different languages and dialects used by the Turkish citizens have become possible.

Within this scope, the Kurdish Language and Literature Department was established in Mardin Artuklu University in 2011 and student enrollments for undergraduate program started for the academic year 2011-2012.

With the aim of training Kurdish language teachers, the Department of Kurdish Language and Culture was established in the Institute of Living Languages in Turkey of Mardin Artuklu University.

As of the academic year 2012-2013, postgraduate courses started to be offered in  the Kurdish Language and Literature Department of Muş Alparslan University, which has been providing undergraduate courses since 2010, and among 300 applicants, only 50 students  enrolled to the department.

The Department of the Zaza Language and Literature was established under the Department of Eastern Languages and Literatures of Tunceli University.

With the Law No. 6356 on Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements, which was adopted on 18 October 2012, the Law No. 2821 on Trade Unions and the Law No. 2822 on Collective Labour Agreements,  Strikes and Lockout were repealed; and the aim is to revise the operation of workers’ and employers’ trade unions and confederations and  to determine the matters related to collective labor agreements.

The Law Amending the Law No. 4688 on Civil Servants’ Trade Unions entered into force on 4 April 2012.

 “DETERMINED REFORMS” FOR ADVANCED DEMOCRACY

We have taken these historic steps for the benefits of our people.

We will certainly continue proceeding on the right track.

With its advanced democracy and growing economy, Turkey not only presents a priceless opportunity for regional and international peace and stability in the 21st century, but is also a unique source of inspiration for the nearby geography.

Although the EU is one of the most successful peace projects of our times, it is still a continental project. This continental peace project will become a global peace project only with Turkey’s accession.

Our government has announced to the public the reforms that will be realised in the next decade under Vision 2023”.

For Turkey to advance beyond EU standards, and to achieve advanced democracy and our goals for 2023, we will continue our reform process.

The reforms are essential not only to the accession negotiations but also for increasing the living standards of our citizens.

I hope that Turkey’s own Progress Report will be beneficial to Turkey, to our democracy and our EU accession process.

I also would like to wish our citizens a happy New Year.

 “Turkey’s own Progress Report” is available on www.ab.gov.tr

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Last updated: 2013-01-03 15:48:57