Turkey’s most obvious foreign policy change recently has been in its relations with the European Union (EU). Ankara, which previously ‘threw the European Parliament’s Turkey report into the trash’, strained relations by calling European leaders ‘mentally ill’, and came to the threshold of hot conflict with Greece and Cyprus due to disagreements over natural gas/oil exploration, is now seeking to ‘rebuild relations with EU’ at every turn. The AK Party government has even started to make promising statements about relations with the EU recently, indicating that the modernization of the Customs Union and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Europe ‘can be possible’.
TURKEY FAILS IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
But what has been the response to these promising statements? Has there been any compliance with the recommendations of GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption) in the fight against corruption, which is one of the conditions before visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens will be approved?
The best place to look for indications of where Turkey stands is in the reports published by GREC• under the umbrella of the European Council, in which Turkey is a member. GRECO provides anti-corruption recommendations for all member states in two areas: politics and judiciary.
The situation revealed by GRECO’s latest report about Turkey is catastrophic: Ankara didn’t implement 74.2% of a total of 31 GRECO anticorruption recommendations, partly implemented 19.4% of them and actually implemented 6.5% of them, according to 2019 data – the first report prepared by GRECO following Turkey’s transition to the presidential system. This lack of compliance with recommendations pushed Turkey to the rear among all GRECO states.
So, what are the issues recommended by GRECO to which Turkey is not complying? In fact, all of them are necessary recommendations for clean politics and a clean society:
►Consulting with all segments of the society during the legislative process in the Parliament – Not implemented.
►A code of ethics for deputies/politicians should be enacted – Not implemented.
►Deputies/politicians should disclose to the public any actions which might raise conflict of interest issues. The clearest example of this is Ruhsar Pekcan, the now former trade minister, who instructed the Ministry she led to purchase sanitizer worth millions of TRY from her own company.
►The public should be informed about deputies’ main occupations/jobs and conflicts of interest – Partly implemented (the law is still the Parliament).
►Effective methods should be formed to verify assets of deputies/politicians declared by them – Not implemented.
►The immunity of deputies who are accused of corruption should be lifted and their trial should be ensured – Not implemented.
►Politicians/deputies should be trained and informed about possible conflicts of interest between their duties and the public – Partly implemented.
THE TURKISH JUDICIARY ALSO FAILS THE LITMUS TEST
Part of GRECO recommendations consist of anticorruption recommendations regarding members of the judiciary. However, the report has revealed that the Turkish judiciary complies with a mere 8.3% of the GRECO anticorruption recommendations. Here are the recommendations and compliance status:
►Independence of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors from the executive power should be ensured – Not implemented.
►Independent members of the judiciary should involve more in recruitment of new judges and prosecutors – Not implemented (the majority of the examination board consists of bureaucrats from the Justice Ministry).
►Ethical conduct of members of the judiciary should be checked before their appointments – Partly implemented. However, it’s doubtful that the standards set by the European Council have been met.
►Judges and prosecutors should be assured that the Ministry of Justice won’t intervene in the process concerning temporary assignments due to their decisions – Not implemented.
►Judges and prosecutors should be trained on issues such as what conflict of interest is and what kind of gifts are included in corruption – Partly implemented.
►Judges and prosecutors should take an oath to be impartial upon appointment-Oath is taken/implemented. (But is it kept?)
►Disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors should be carried out without the influence of the executive branch – Partly implemented. (The structure of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) allows the influence of the executive power, which should be changed. But judicial remedy against HSK decisions is some progress).
►The decision to lift the immunity of judges and prosecutors for their trials should be given by independent judges and not the government – Not implemented.
►The government should not have influence over the Justice Academy educating judges and prosecutors; the independent judiciary should control it – Not implemented.
►A code of ethics should be established for judges and prosecutors – Partly implemented.
In short, the status of the Turkish judiciary and politics regarding corruption isn’t promising at all. This situation has an impact on Turkey’s economy and foreign direct investment flows to the country.
It’s time for the AK Party government to pay attention to the opposition’s insistent requests to enact a political ethics law and their call for justice and an independent judiciary.
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