Encouraged by the EU, Turkey has pursued legislative and constitutional reforms liberalizing the political system and relaxing restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and expression. Turkey signed and ratified Protocols 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It abolished the death penalty and adopted measures to promote independence of the judiciary, end torture during police interrogations, and reform the prison system. In addition, Turkey has significantly reduced the scope of its antiterrorism statutes, which had been used to curtail political expression, and it amended the Penal Code and Codes of Criminal and Administrative Procedure. Police powers have been curbed and the administration of justice strengthened, due partly to the dismantling of state security courts.”
“Turkey and EU”. Embassy of the Republic of Turkey. Retrieved June 3rd, 2008 – The Political Reform Process
Comprehensive reforms have taken place in Turkey since her candidate status has been registered at the 1999 Helsinki Summit. Important steps have been taken in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms, freedom of thought and expression, non-Muslim religious foundations and their rights of acquiring and disposal of property, broadcasting and education in languages and dialects that are traditionally used in daily lives of Turkish citizens.
Furthermore, with these reforms Turkey’s legal system has been further strengthened, the status international treaties have been reinforced within the hierarchy of the legal system, necessary arrangements have been made in preventing torture and ill-treatment within the framework of the “zero-tolerance policy”, measures have been taken in promoting gender equality and the activities of associations and foundations have been eased. In addition, with the revision of Article 90 of the Constitution, superiority of international agreements related to fundamental rights and freedoms to national legislation has been established. The provisions regarding capital punishment have also been removed from the Constitution and our laws.
Within the framework of Turkey’s EU accession process, important arrangements have been made with regard to the freedom of thought and expression. First and foremost, the related provisions in the Penal Code have been revised and the scope and implementation of these rights have been further aligned to EU standards.
The first major step taken after the 1999 Helsinki Summit was the Constitutional amendments made in October 2001. Within this framework, in line with the 2001 National Program submitted to the Commission in November 2001, new provisions in the areas of; freedom of thought and expression, fight against torture, democracy, freedom and security of the individual, communication, freedom of movement and settlement, freedom of association and gender equality were adopted. The new Civil Code that entered into force on the 1st of January, 2002 also contains new provisions in these areas.
Between February 2002-July 2004 with an aim to fulfill the EU’s political criteria eight reform packages have been adopted.
1st Reform Package- 19th of February 2002
2nd Reform Package-9th of April 2002
3rd Reform Package-9th of August 2002
4th Reform Package-11th of January 2003
5th Reform Package-4th of February 2003
6th Reform Package-19th of July 2003
7th Reform Package-7th of August 2003
8th Reform Package-14th of July 2004
With these eight reform packages 218 articles of 53 different laws have been changed.
On the other hand, with the constitutional amendments that entered into force on May 2004, new regulations as regards gender equality, freedom of the press, the status of international conventions and the functioning of the judiciary were adopted.
The Commission’s 2004 Progress Report, Avis and Impact Assessment Study
The Commission’s Report and Recommendation in line with the decisions taken at the 2002 Copenhagen European Council were published on 6 October 2004. The Commission has also issued the “Impact Assessment Study” on the positive and negative consequences Turkey’s membership would bring to the EU.
In the 2004 Progress Report the Commission has thoroughly analyzed the steps taken by Turkey on its road to accession. In its Recommendation, the Commission, recognizing that Turkey has sufficiently fulfilled the political criteria, has advised the member states to start accession negotiations with Turkey. Furthermore, the decision taken during the 1999 Helsinki Summit that “Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the EU” was underlined in the Recommendation.
In the “Impact Assessment Study”, the probable effects Turkey’s membership would create in the areas of justice and home affairs, economy, budget, internal market, agriculture and fisheries were analyzed. It was concluded that the overall effect of Turkey’s accession would be positive to the Union.