Monday, 30 September 2013

Erdogan Makes Modest Progress On Democracy In Turkey

The 'democratisation package' of Prime Minister Erdogan, announced today, is welcome as far as it goes - although it is not the major leap forward that European Union and Turkish liberals were hoping for.

Andrew Duff MEP has just returned from a four day fact-finding visit to Turkey, including to the mainly Kurdish provinces in the East. Reacting to Mr Erdogan's statement, he says:-

'Greatest importance in Turkey will be attached to the relaxation of the Kemalist rules on the wearing of headscarves.

'For the Kurds, it is welcome that private schools may teach courses in the mother tongue, but as long as the Article 42 remains in Turkey's constitution, the effects will be limited. The return of three letters of the Kurdish alphabet (q, w and x) and the re-naming of Kurdish towns will be welcome.

'More information is needed about the government's intentions on lowering the electoral threshold. Movement on this matter will meet a long-standing request of the European Commission and Parliament.

'Some relaxation of the laws on the right of assembly is welcome, as well as the promise of tougher laws against hate crime. So is the transfer to civilian control of the Jandarma.

'However, it is a pity that Mr Erdogan again misses the opportunity to reform the anti-terror law, and that no amnesty is offered to political prisoners, many of them journalists.

'There is nothing for the Alevis except changing the name of a university: the emancipation of the Alevis in Turkey remains unfinished business.

'The Syriac Church will rejoice at regaining the property rights of the Mor Gabriel monastery. But the Greek Church has still to wait for the return of the Halki seminary.'