This page was archived on October 2020.



31 - Rule of law, democracy, and human rights in Turkey

Grade: C-
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 7/20
Scorecard 2012: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C- (7/20)

The EU is united in its concern about Turkish democracy deficits, but is clearly divided on how to respond and so has been left with little influence. 

Turkey has largely regressed on the rule of law, civil liberties, separation of powers, and freedom of expression. In 2014, EU member states took note of social media bans, obstruction of the investigation into corruption allegations, and the narrowing of space to express critical opinions of authorities – including a new law on the internet that granted the Telecommunications Directorate the power to block access to websites without a court order. On the Kurdish issue, however, there was some progress. Kurdish language rights were expanded and the controversial criminal Special Authority Courts were abolished and their pending cases dismissed. These reforms were driven by domestic political dynamics but were received positively by the EU.

Though European capitals are united in their concern about Turkish democracy and rule of law, they are divided on what to do about it. Some EU capitals, such as France, recommend opening chapters 23 and 24 to encourage reform and increase EU leverage in Turkey; others are silent or, in the case of the Netherlands, have called for the accession process to be reconsidered. Some EU member states that are supportive of opening new chapters with Turkey are less willing to use political capital for Turkey, reserving it instead for discussions on Eastern Partnership countries. The UK, however, continues to press Cyprus to lift its block on negotiations, which weakens EU leverage regarding human rights in Turkey.

The countries most involved in democratisation in Turkey – whether through engaging Ankara, supporting Turkish civil society, or working towards activating EU conditionality – are Italy, Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. The contribution of other EU member countries is mostly limited to EU twinning programmes. In 2014, the Netherlands lobbied unsuccessfully for Turkey to receive lower amounts from the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) 2014–2020 budget, but the new IPA budget does allocate more money to strengthening the capacity of rights-focused civil society organisations.