Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report


Grasping the nettle

22. It is clear that there are some within the Turkish establishment who oppose either Turkey's EU candidacy itself or the reforms which Turkey must carry out in the pursuit of this candidacy. Just before we visited Turkey, the e-mails of the European Commission's representative in Ankara, Karen Fogg, were leaked to an anti-European weekly—evidently with malice aforethought by a section of the establishment which had intercepted this private material. The newspaper published a selection of this correspondence, claiming—on the basis of misinterpretation and quotation out of context—that Ms Fogg "had organised a 'secret network' whose 'strategic goal' was to promote Kurdish separatism, unravel the secularism bequeathed by Kemal Atatürk and generally 'destroy Turkey'."[25] The ensuing scandal meant that the very positive news of Turkey's full participation in the Convention on the Future of Europe received little or no coverage in the Turkish media.

23. Those who are prepared to use this sort of spoiling tactic to damage Turkey's relations with the EU represent only one end of the political spectrum. The Turkish public is largely in favour of EU accession, with opinion polls showing support of about 70 per cent. There are those within the Turkish Government who are committed not only to EU membership as an ideal but also to the practical reforms necessary to achieve it. But some of the reforms are hard for many Turks to stomach, for example because they are viewed as undermining the integrity of the Turkish state by giving cultural rights to Kurds, or because they weaken the role of the military, which is viewed as the rightful protector of the Turkish state. Michael Leigh explained to us that hesitation is usually a result of the belief that "certain aspects of the Kemalist tradition may not be compatible with EU membership and they themselves are not ready to make this sacrifice" and he noted that "it is a continuous effort for those in Turkey who see this [accession] as a priority to persuade some of their compatriots to move in this direction".[26]

24. We conclude that the ongoing debate about EU accession within the Turkish government and society at large is healthy, and to be expected in a democratic state. We recommend that the Government should support Turkey's efforts to fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria, even if progress is slower than the Government would wish. We further recommend, however, that the Government support the position of the European Commission, that while it remains a matter for Turkey how speedily it wishes to fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria, accession negotiations will not commence until those criteria are implemented.

Understanding the EU

25. While some 70 per cent of Turks favour EU accession, we heard in Ankara from the British Ambassador, from the European Commission and from Turkey's own EU Secretariat-General that very few people in Turkey have an accurate understanding of how the EU functions. Membership of the European Union is seen by many in the Turkish authorities as a completion of Atatürk's project of Europeanisation. But being a member of the European Union is about more than recognition as a European state with a European identity. It was put to us during our visit that the Turkish authorities want to join the European Union not to achieve economic and political union for the common good, but to be a member of some sort of exclusive club. It was also put to us that many in Turkey believe that the EU acts as a monolithic entity, with a President like that of the United States. As an example, it was explained to us that resolutions of the European Parliament speaking of an Armenian genocide are seen as having the endorsement of the Union as a whole.

26. The budget foreseen for 2000-06 for the European Commission's Communication Strategy for Enlargement in Turkey is _5.8 million. That foreseen for the ten candidate countries of central and eastern Europe for the same period is more than _50 million.[27] We heard in Ankara that the Commission is committed to spending more on communication strategy in Hungary than it is in Turkey, with a population six times larger.

27. Turkey has had an even worse deal in terms of actually benefiting from this commitment, because of delays in the approval by the European Council of the framework for pre-accession assistance.[28] As a result, there has been no sustained financial support for the European Commission's information activity in Turkey since its Representation in Ankara was established in 1999. Minimal ad hoc financing in 2000-01 dried up entirely in September 2001, with the effect that, in the period to March 2002, the Representation was only able to carry out non-funded information activities. Funds are now at last being made available through the MEDA global allocation and pre-accession assistance, but the length of the tendering process means that major information projects will only begin to be implemented in 2003. We conclude that as a result of delays in providing the funds necessary to deliver the European Commission's communication strategy in Turkey, an important opportunity has been missed to inform the Turkish public about the EU at a crucial stage in that country's candidacy. We recommend that the Government should act with its EU partners to ensure that the European Commission's information activity in Turkey is adequately financed.

28. The British Government also has a role to play in ensuring that the Turkish people are informed about what the EU is and how it operates. In recent years a number of Turkish academics and officials have attended conferences on the EU at the expense of the British Government. This is clearly important, but a wider reach and more realistic appreciation can best be provided through the mass media.

29. Supporting Turkey's accession to the EU is a key strategic theme for the British Council.[29] The Council is an ideal medium for disseminating knowledge not only about the United Kingdom, but also about the EU. We are aware that the Council already organises a biannual conference for discussion and debate on issues facing Britain and Turkey in the European context. It is less clear from the Council's submission if it also works to promote understanding of the EU in its contacts with those ordinary Turkish people who call in at its centres, visit its website and benefit from its work in English language teaching. We recommend that the Government should seek to establish bilateral programmes and to participate fully in multilateral programmes in Turkey to increase understanding of the EU at all levels of society, so that Turkish people are better informed on what joining the EU would mean for their country.


30. Before Turkey is able to begin accession negotiations, it must, as we have already mentioned, fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria. We consider below the requirements of these criteria as regards human rights, what progress Turkey has already made in meeting them, and the shortcomings that remain. We then look at a related issue, the role of the military in Turkish society. It is also necessary for a candidate, before negotiations can begin, to resolve any outstanding border disputes with other members and candidates, either through bilateral negotiation, or failing that, through the International Court of Justice. We therefore also consider progress on Turkey's maritime boundary dispute with Greece.


31. As set out in 1993 at the Copenhagen European Council, membership of the EU requires "that the Candidate State has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities". An accession partnership between the EU and Turkey was formally adopted by the European Council on 8 March 2001. This sets out the short- and medium-term measures necessary to ensure that Turkey meets the criteria for membership. Measures to be adopted in the short term were "selected on the basis that it is realistic to expect that Turkey can complete or take them substantially forward by the end of 2001". Medium-term priorities were expected to take more than one year to complete, but it was hoped that work on achieving these would also begin during 2001.

32. On 19 March 2001, Turkey adopted its own National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA), setting out how the Government intended to meet the Copenhagen criteria. On 3 October 2001, a package of constitutional amendments was adopted, aimed at bringing the Turkish constitution in line with the Copenhagen political criteria. The European Commission in its Regular Report on Turkey's progress towards accession of November 2001[30] commented extensively on these amendments and on the NPAA. In December 2001, the Presidency Conclusions of the Laeken European Council noted that the constitutional reforms had "brought forward the prospect of the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey". Since the beginning of this year, numerous further legislative amendments have been adopted.

33. William Park commented that "the sheer energy with which this programme has been tackled is testimony to the depth of Turkey's EU aspirations".[31] There is no doubt that many in the Turkish administration are committed to driving the legislative programme though. But there are two areas of shortcoming at this macro level. First, there remain legislative reforms demanded under the Accession Partnership which the Turkish Government has been unwilling or unable to adopt. The Regular Report points out that "a number of restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms have remained" and that "the present NPAA makes it insufficiently clear how Turkey will address a number of priorities in the Accession Partnership".[32] We deal with some of these below. Secondly, as identified in the Regular Report, "despite a number of constitutional, legislative and administrative changes, the actual human rights situation as it affects individuals in Turkey needs improvement".[33] Little appears so far to have changed on the ground—indeed, according to representatives of leading human rights NGOs, who we met in Ankara and Istanbul, the situation has actually deteriorated over the last year.

34. In a large country like Turkey it will be a much harder struggle to ensure that good human rights practice is the norm than to reform legislation. We were concerned during our visit to Turkey, however, at the weight placed by the politicians we met on the legislative changes that had been carried out, and at the apparent lack of focus on measures to ensure their implementation. It is not obvious to us that the Turkish authorities fully understand how important it is that, in the words of our witness from the European Commission, "there has to be a change in the conceptual approach, in mind set, on the part of judges, of prosecutors, of the police, of the military, so that these legal changes are actually translated into improvements in conditions for ordinary citizens".[34] Despite the frequent pronouncements of the Commission and member states, we are not sure that the Turkish authorities have really taken on board the fact that, until "the actual human rights situation as it affects individuals" improves, the EU will not allow Turkey to begin accession negotiations.[35]

35. Amnesty International has told us that "no concrete steps have been taken at grass roots level to effect real improvement in the human rights situation",[36] and Human Rights Watch has written that "while the reforms that really count are not being tackled, tinsel and varnish are being applied to give the impression that the government is on the case."[37] This view is supported by human rights NGOs in Ankara and Istanbul, who speak of their concern that the administration is going through the motions of reform, with no real intention of carrying it through into practice. We conclude that the jury is still out on whether the Turkish authorities are really committed to the nuts and bolts of human rights reform, or whether they are merely applying tinsel and varnish. The energy devoted by the Turkish administration to ensuring that human rights principles are not only written into law, but also carried into practice, will be the real test of Turkey's commitment to human rights.


36. We will now consider a number of the areas of human rights reform on which the Accession Partnership concentrates. The British Government has an important role to play in helping Turkey to carry out these reforms. We agree with Dr William Hale that it is "important that it should not just stand on the sidelines, criticising Turkey for its failures over human rights and other issues, but be actively involved in helping the authorities to implement the needed reforms".[38] It is also important to distinguish between those shortcomings which exist without any sort of state justification, the prevalence of torture for example, and those limitations on human rights which are intentionally imposed for ideological reasons, such as curbs on minority cultural rights and on freedom of expression. Both categories need to be tackled, but Turkey is likely to be more receptive to criticism and assistance in the first category than it is in the second.


37. Amnesty International (AI) write in their submission to us that:

38. Torture seems to be prevalent in Turkey for two reasons: because those committing it are generally allowed to get away with it, and because it is one of the only evidence-gathering tools which the Turkish police and gendarmes know how to use. There have been some recent positive legal reforms designed to help reduce the likelihood of torture occurring,[40] but in the analysis of AI, what progress there has been is "not a speedy progress and not a very committed one".[41] David Barchard has told us that "I do not think anyone at the top of Turkish politics is in favour of torture at all. I do not think anyone wants to wink at it or turn it aside."[42] But it clearly needs pushing up their list of priorities.

39. Laws are needed to prevent the circumstances in which torture can occur—incommunicado detention, and detention without charge. But it is also necessary to ensure that those who commit torture are punished for it, and currently there are many legal obstacles to bringing those alleged to have committed torture to trial. This is not just a case of changing the law—after all, torture is already illegal in Turkey and a confession obtained through torture is, in theory at least, inadmissible in court. What is also required is a change in culture, particularly in the judiciary and in the police and Jandarma,[43] so that allegations of torture are properly investigated and those accused of torture can be brought to justice more easily. We agree with Dr Heidi Wedel from AI that a stronger focus on torture is needed,[44] and with Dr William Hale that "urging the Turkish authorities to take stronger and more effective measures against police who are guilty of torture" should be a high priority for the British


40. We heard from human rights NGOs in Ankara that EU member states tend to raise with the Turkish authorities allegations of torture in highly politicised cases. The NGO representatives regarded this as counter-productive, as Turkish bureaucrats are often suspicious about the motives of European support for groups such as the Kurdish minority. As AI makes clear, torture is common occurrence in Turkey, and not just for those accused of political crimes. We recommend that one of the Government's main priorities in pursuing human rights reform in Turkey should be the prevention of torture. We further recommend that in raising allegations of torture with the Turkish authorities, the Government should take care to concentrate as much on cases involving ordinary Turkish civilians accused of 'ordinary' crimes as on those involved in politicised cases.

41. One aspect of British experience which could serve as a useful parallel for Turkey is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which sets out categorically what can and cannot take place in a British police station. Clear legal ground rules of this sort do not currently exist in Turkey, and it is therefore difficult for those apprehended to know precisely what their rights are, as well as for the law enforcement authorities to know precisely what they are and are not allowed to do to obtain evidence. This is the sort of grounding which is essential to instil good practice, and to ensure that those who disobey this practice can be brought to justice. We welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement to us that he is ready to consider the usefulness of this parallel, and ways of encouraging advice "police officer to police officer".[46] We recommend that the British Government explore with the Turkish authorities whether the Police and Criminal Evidence Act can be drawn on as a model for similar legislation in Turkey.

42. Dr Hale has told us that:

    "one of the reasons why this [torture] is such a routine practice in Turkish police stations is that the Turkish police are not very good at gathering the normal forensic evidence, witness evidence, etc, which one would need in order to convict somebody of a crime. In these circumstances they tend to resort to brutal methods in order to get confessions."[47]

It would clearly reduce the Turkish police's reliance on torture if they were better able to obtain the evidence to secure a conviction by other methods than confession. In 2001-02 the British Government was involved in a number of training projects for the Jandarma, in custody, detention and public order policing, in forensic science training and in English language training, as well as in organising sponsored visits to the United Kingdom by Jandarma personnel. We recommend that the Government continue to organise and fund projects specifically aimed at improving the ability of law enforcement agencies throughout Turkey to gather evidence by other means than through confession.

43. We were surprised to hear from Amnesty International that they have no input into the Government's human rights training programmes for the Turkish authorities.[48] NGOs such as Amnesty have first-hand experience of the human rights situation on the ground in Turkey, and it could be useful to draw on this experience when devising training programmes intended to improve this situation. We recommend that the Government consider consulting NGOs such as Amnesty International when planning and constructing training programmes intended to improve the human rights situation in Turkey.


44. We are aware of concerns about the recent replacement of F-Type prisons in Turkey with facilities with smaller cells, in which prisoners have less opportunity to associate with one another.[49] Hunger strikes by prisoners in protest at these conditions have led to a number of deaths and have attracted the attention of the international media.[50] The little that we have heard about the situation seems to justify concern. Unfortunately, however, we have received little evidence on this subject, and in the circumstances we do not feel sufficiently informed to comment further.

25   'Her Excellency's unprivate e-mail', Economist, 23 February-1 March Back

26   QQ 71, 70 Back

27   European Commission, DG Enlargement Information Unit, Explaining Enlargement: A Progress Report on the Communication Strategy for Enlargement, March 2002 Back

28   European Commission, DG Enlargement Information Unit, Explaining Enlargement: A Progress Report on the Communication Strategy for Enlargement, March 2002, p. 16 Back

29   Appendix 7, Ev 93-96 Back

30   From now on, referred to as "the Regular Report" Back

31   Ev 5, para 6 Back

32   Regular Report, pp. 96, 97 Back

33   Regular Report, p. 97 Back

34   Q 84 [Michael Leigh] Back

35   Regular Report, p. 97 Back

36   Ev 42, para 6 Back

37   Human Rights Watch, 2001 Report on Turkey Back

38   Ev 3, para 14 Back

39   Ev 42, para 6; Ev 43, para 11 Back

40   QQ 38, 138 Back

41   Q 133 Back

42   Q 114 Back

43   the branch of the military responsible for policing in the areas of Turkey under state of emergency Back

44   Q 148 Back

45   Q 2 Back

46   Q 201 Back

47   Q 40 Back

48   QQ 141-2 Back

49   Ev 45, para 25 [Amnesty International] Back

50   For example, 'Hope dies in Turkish prison hunger strike', The Guardian, 19 January 2002 Back

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