The demand of Turkey for membership in the EU

Declaration of the ELDH on the demand of Turkey for membership in the EU

Result of a fact finding mission in Turkey in April 2000

In the beginning of April this year 14 lawyers from France, Germany and Italy stayed in Turkey. Being invited by the local bar associations, by the lawyer’s magazine “Acic Sayfa” and by the Association of contemporary Lawyers they discussed on 4 meetings in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir Turkeys way into the European Union.

They found confirmed, that Turkey is still far from fulfilling constitutional, human rights and democratic minimum standards. In this context the following points have to mentioned as particularly severe

  • The role of the army above all state powers, interfering in all state activities, without parliamentary control.
  • The violation of elementary fundamental rights, in particular the right to live, the right of physical integrity (in particular by torture), the personal and political liberty.
  • The political penal law, that is used by the executive and the courts for arbitrary punishment of political opponents, in particular of left wing and Kurdish activists.
  • The ill-treatment of prisoners by the kind of accommodation, the treatment by the prison staff, and insufficient nourishment.
  • The severe violation of minority rights, in particular those of the Kurds.
  • The 10 % hurdle for parliamentary elections, by which many political parties like EMEP, ÖDP and HADEP are excluded from parliament. At present only those parties can be represented in the Turkish parliament, that achieved according to the proportional election system at least 10 % of the votes on national level.


Turkeys status as a candidate to the EU and the influence of the EU on Turkey in this context give hope for an improvement of the situation in Turkey. In this context the election of the new Turkish President Mr. Ahmet Cecdet Sezer may be welcomed, who announced constitutional and legal reforms.

No matter if Turkey will become full member of the EU in the end, the demand for membership gives the EU the possibility to support the democratic forces in Turkey. Still there is ambiguity in this development since the violation of human rights and democratic rights occurs also in the member states of the EU. The proliferation of weapons to the Turkish Government for it’s civil war against the Kurds and the refusal of the right of asylum to refugees from Turkey don’t allow too much optimism concerning the influence of the EU on Turkey.

It can be expected that the improvements will concern only the most severe violations of what is considered human rights and democratic standards in the EU. There is also a risk that the EU will content itself with a mere formal improvement of the constitution and the laws. The violation of European law would have to be controlled by the European Courts in Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

As a result of it’s mission in Turkey the ELDH demands from the Turkish Government the following measures

  • Abolishment of the death penalty.
  • Abolishment of the political penal law, in particular Art. 312 of the Turkish penal code.
  • Abolishment of torture.
  • An end to the disappearance of people.
  • A regulation by which the detention of suspected persons must be legalized within 48 hours by a court decision and a regulation that without final judgment no imprisonment may take place unless the escape of the accused or the suppression of evidence has to be expected.
  • The full installment of democratic and fundamental rights. This includes an end of the exceptional, uncontrolled role of the military. The National Security Council – as highest executive body has to be abolished. The Justice has to be restructured in a way that guarantees it’s independence, in particular from the military.
  • The guarantee of normal working conditions for NGO’s.
  • The guarantee of the free decision of Turkish associations to become member in European or international associations.
  • The guarantee of minority rights and the signing and ratification of the respective European Conventions. This includes the abolishment of all restriction for linguistic, cultural and religious forms of expression of the people in Turkey. The Kurdish language and culture and a regional autonomy have to be guaranteed. The introduction of a federal political system for the whole of Turkey, might be helpful to overcome present deficits of democracy.
  • The End of the civil war in the east of Turkey as well as of all military actions in the neighboring countries. The state of emergency in the Kurdish provinces has to be brought to an end. Peace negotiations with the PKK must begin.
  • All political prisoners must be released. These are in particular persons who have been tried for expressing their political opinion but also those who have been imprisoned in the course of the military conflict in the Kurdish region. In this context the former president of the Turkish Human Rights Association Akin Birdal, the Members of Parliament of the former DEP-Party (Leyla Zana and others), and the lawyers Esber Yagmurdereli must be mentioned.
  • The 10 % hurdle for parliamentary elections has to be abolished.


The ELDH demands from the European Union, to support a political development in the above mentioned way. All measurements that hinder such a development should be suppressed. That includes proliferation of weapons, which are harmful in any way to the political, economic and social development in Turkey.