Turkey ‘on the road to autocracy,’ Venice Commission watchdog says

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details 01.03.17
Publication Date 01/03/2017
Content Type

The action of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) is based on the three ground principles of the European constitutional heritage: democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which at the same time form the basis of activities of the Council of Europe. These principles have their expression in three key areas of action of the Commission:

• democratic institutions and fundamental rights
• constitutional justice and ordinary justice
• elections, referendums and political parties.

The Commission also shares the standards and best practices adopted within the countries of the Council of Europe beyond its borders notably in neighboring countries.

Opinions and studies
The Venice Commission’s primary task is to provide states with legal advice in the form of 'legal opinions' on draft legislation or legislation already in force which is submitted to it for examination. It also produces studies and reports on topical issues. Groups of members assisted by the secretariat prepare the draft opinions and studies, which are then discussed and adopted at the Committee’s plenary sessions.

A dialogue-based working method: The Commission does not seek to impose the solutions set out in its opinions. Rather, it adopts a non-directive approach based on dialogue and shares member states’ experience and practices. For this reason, a working group visits the country concerned to meet the various stakeholders and to assess the situation as objectively as possible. The authorities are also able to submit comments on the draft opinions to the Commission. The opinions prepared are generally heeded by the countries concerned.

International institutions, civil society and the media regularly refer to the Commission’s opinions.German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the 1 March 2017 a leaked Opinion of the Venice Commission investigating proposed changes to the Turkish Constitution.

The Venice Commission, it was said, had suggested that the proposed changes to the constitution placed the country 'on the road to an autocracy and a one-person regime'.

On the 13 March 2017 the European Commission said the Venice Commission's comments on the proposed Constitutional amendments raised serious concerns at the excessive concentration of powers in one office, with serious effect on the necessary checks and balances and on the independence of the judiciary. It was also of concern that this process of constitutional change was taking place under the state of emergency.

The proposed amendments, if approved at the referendum of 16 April, and especially their practical implementation, would be assessed in light of Turkey's obligations as an EU candidate country and as a member of the Council of Europe.

'We encourage Turkey to pursue and further deepen its close cooperation with the Council of Europe and its bodies, and to address their concerns and recommendations'.

Following the tensions of these last days between Turkey and some EU Member States, it was essential to avoid further escalation and find ways to calm down the situation. Decisions with regard to the holding of meetings and rallies in Member States were a matter for the Member State concerned, in accordance with the applicable provisions of international and national law.

The European Union called on Turkey to refrain from excessive statements and actions that risked further exacerbating the situation. Matters of concern can only be resolved through open and direct communication channels.

Source Link http://dw.com/p/2YQJj
Related Links
ESO: Background information: Turkey a dictatorship with presidential system? http://www.europeansources.info/record/turkey-a-dictatorship-with-presidential-system/
ESO: Background information: Turkey's path towards a presidential system http://www.europeansources.info/record/turkeys-path-towards-a-presidential-system/
ESO: Background information: Turkish parliament votes constitutional reforms http://www.europeansources.info/record/turkish-parliament-votes-constitutional-reforms/
Council of Europe: Venice Commission: Documents by opinions and studies: Turkey: 875/2017 - Revision of the Constitution of Turkey http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?opinion=875&year=all
Hürriyet Daily News, 28.02.17: President will be ‘one-man ruler’ but will be checked by parliament: Turkish PM http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/president-will-be-one-man-ruler-but-will-be-checked-by-parliament-turkish-pm-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110284&NewsCatID=338
Anadolu Agency, 01.03.17: Council of Europe warned about 'anti-Turkish agenda' http://aa.com.tr/en/europe/council-of-europe-warned-about-anti-turkish-agenda/761618
European Commission: DG Communication: RAPID: STATEMENT/17/588: Joint statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the Venice Commission's Opinion on the amendments to the Constitution of Turkey and recent events http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-17-588_en.pdf
Council of Europe: Venice Commission: News, 10.03.17: 110th PLENARY - Turkey - Proposed constitutional amendments 'dangerous step backwards' for democracy http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/events/?id=2369
Hürriyet Daily News, 01.03.17: Turkey's proposed charter shift weakens democracy: Venice Commission report http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-proposed-charter-shift-weakens-democracy-venice-commission-report-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110671&NewsCatID=351
EurActiv, 14.03.17: Commission ‘seriously concerned’ about Turkish constitutional changes http://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/commission-seriously-concerned-about-turkish-constitutional-changes/

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