EU foreign ministers reaffirm the paragraph concerning Turkey in the General Council meeting conclusion document to be submitted to the approval of EU leaders on December 19-20 at the EU Summit, Anadolu Agency reported.
The assessment of the Council toward Turkey was parallel with the recently published Progress Report on Turkey.
It was stated in the document titled "Council conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process" that Turkey as a candidate country and a key partner for the EU with a dynamic economy provides a valuable contribution to the prosperity of the whole European continent.
The Council welcomed the recent opening of Chapter 22 - Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments. The document also appreciated the democratization and reform process and Cyprus issue while it criticized the freedom of speech and press.
Reforms in Turkey
The EU should remain the anchor for reforms in Turkey, especially in the areas of rule of law, and fundamental rights and freedoms. Turkey will be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfilment of benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the Negotiating Framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU, said the document.
The Council welcomed the important progress on reforms that has been made in Turkey, including Turkey's continued commitment to the political reform agenda. It was stated in the document that the Council took positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which should be supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder.
The Council also welcomed the Ombudsman and National Human Rights institutions becoming operational, measures taken in the field of women's rights and gender equality, further implementation of the third judicial reform package, the adoption and start of the implementation of the fourth judicial reform package, further consolidation of civilian oversight of the security forces, as well as the continued implementation of the Law on Foundations.
Democratization package and solution process
The recently adopted democratisation package also holds out the prospect of further positive reforms, said the conclusion document. And with regard to the situation in the south east of Turkey, it was stated that the Council strongly supported the ongoing peace process launched by the Turkish government, and hoped that this initiative would bring an end to terrorism, pave the way for a political solution to the Kurdish issue, and facilitate economic and social development in the region.
Freedom and human rights
On the other hand, the document noted that further sustained efforts would be required, particularly as regards improving the observance of fundamental rights and freedoms in law and in practice in Turkey, including in the areas of
freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, property rights, and enhancing implementation of all the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Furthermore, excessive use of force against protestors by law enforcement bodies was referred as to be addressed and investigated effectively. It was also stated that the restrictions in practice on the freedom of the media, including the large number of legal cases launched against writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, frequent and disproportionate website bans, as well as broad application of the legislation on terrorism and organised crime, have also raised serious concerns.
It was also expressed that the EU welcomed the signing of the readmission agreement, as well as the initiation of the dialogue on visa liberalisation between the European Commission and Turkish authorities and looked forward to the swift ratification of the readmission agreement and its full and effective implementation vis-à-vis all Member States.
"Progress in the dialogue on visa liberalisation will be founded on a performance based approach and conditioned on effective and consistent implementation by Turkey of the requirements in the visa roadmap vis-à-vis the EU and its
Member States. Recalling that Turkey is one of the key transit countries for illegal immigration to the EU, adequate implementation of existing bilateral readmission agreements and readmission provisions contained in similar agreements remains a priority," underlined the document.