PACE condemns Turkey’s slide away from democracy

The Council of Europe’s (PACE) Parliamentary Assembly voted Tuesday to reintroduce a monitoring process for Turkey, initiating fury in Ankara.

We strongly condemn this unjust decision of PACE taken with political motives, in contravention of established procedures,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday, arguing that the move would “only serve terror organisations,” including the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).

The assembly’s monitoring committee raised concerns over constitutional amendments that were approved on April 16 in a national referendum amid a state of emergency.

The amendments, which significantly expand the powers of the presidency, “do not comply with our fundamental and common understanding of democracy,” Turkey rapporteur Marianne Mikko said at the assembly.

Mikko stressed that the monitoring process was not “punishment” but a bid to strengthen dialogue with Turkey.

The report which was presented at the assembly, noted the “serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions” and recommended that the assembly “reopen the monitoring procedure in respect to Turkey until its concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner.

Severe criticism was aimed at the actions undertaken during the state of emergency in Turkey and expressed deep concern about the scale and extent of the purges in the public administration, the judiciary and many other public institutions. The draft report underlined a “serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions in the country.”

The report urges Turkey to take urgent measures to restore freedom of expression, including the lifting of the state of emergency and the release of MPs and journalists. It calls on Ankara to halt the publication of emergency decrees which bypass parliamentary procedures, unless strictly needed under the state of emergency law, and put an end to the collective dismissal of civil servants through emergency decrees. The assembly, in the framework of the monitoring procedure for Turkey, will assess progress made in a report to be presented in the course of the 2018 session of the assembly.

In response, Turkish parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) called the draft resolution “biased.” Talip Küçükcan form the AKP said reopening the monitoring procedure for Turkey would harm relations with the CoE and urged to discuss a road map instead.

Several amendment proposals by Turkish MPs to the content of the report were rejected by the assembly.

PACE’s move confirms that Ankara has not fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria, which was the starting point for the country’s EU accession negotiations.

The EU Council, which postponed the request to suspend negotiations with Turkey during a summit in December 2016, will review the request at the end of this month if PACE downgrades Turkey’s status.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called the move a “disgrace.” “Deciding to reopen the monitoring procedure on Turkey, a staunch defender of contemporary European ideals and values and a founding member of the Council of Europe, under the guidance of malicious circles at PACE is a disgrace to this institution, which claims to be the cradle of democracy,” it said.

Recalling that Turkey contributed to the security and stability of the whole of Europe “while hosting 3.2 million Syrians and countering treacherous terrorist organisations,” the statement accused PACE lawmakers of having “an imprudent mindset lacking strategic vision and ignoring the common and democratic values on which Europe is founded.

The influence of these ill-intentioned circles was also witnessed when certain PACE members who came to observe the referendum were selected from sympathizers of a terrorist organisation. The decision to reopen the monitoring procedure is yet another plot of these malicious groups,” read the statement.


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