EU Progress Report: Kurdish Issue Key Challenge for Turkey’s Democracy

17/10/2012 RUDAW By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The EU Commission’s 2012 Progress Report on Turkey notes “there was a considerable debate on the Kurdish issue but no progress towards a solution.”According to the report, the “Kurdish issue remains a key challenge for Turkey’s democracy; the 2009 democratic opening, aimed at addressing the Kurdish issue, amongst others, was not followed through on.”

The report notes that the local government in the southeast suffered from a number of politicians being detained, a major complaint of Kurdish politicians from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). However, the report also calls actions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “terrorist attacks.” This addresses concerns of Turkey, who often accuses EU states of not doing enough to combat the PKK.

The report mostly focused on negative points, according to Turkey’s government news agency Anadolu. Despite this, the commission did say that Turkey has made some progress on cultural rights. “Fewer restrictions on the use of Kurdish in prisons during visits and exchanges of letters were reported,” it said. On Oct. 5, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced the government would allow legal defence in Kurdish. However, the commission notes that “legislation, including the constitution and the political parties law, still restricts the use of languages other than Turkish. Also, the judiciary took a number of restrictive decisions on the use of languages other than Turkish, including the use of Kurdish in court cases concerning Kurdish politicians and human rights defenders.”

Furthermore, the report notes that “terrorist attacks intensified as did military operations. All terrorist attacks were condemned by the EU. The detention of elected politicians and human rights defenders raises concerns. In incidents such as the Uludere killings of civilians, calls on the authorities for effective and swift investigation and a transparent public inquiry have not been met.”

It also notes that the “truth about extra-judicial killings and torture in the southeast in the 1980s and 1990s has yet to be established in line with the due process of law. The statute of limitations deadline will soon bring an end to judicial investigations on past crimes, without result. Landmines and the village guard system are still causes for concern.” The EU is also worried about the legislative process in Turkey. “Offering a chance to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning of Turkey’s democratic institutions and the rule of law, investigations into alleged coup plans have been overshadowed by real concerns about their wide scope and the shortcomings in judicial proceedings,” the commission reported. A recent report by the International Crisis Group, released on Sept. 11, also noted an increase in violence. The Brussels-based group noted that “Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should seize the opportunity to champion democratic reforms that would meet many of the demands voiced by most of Turkey’s Kurds. This would not require negotiations with the PKK, but the prime minister should engage with the legal Kurdish movement, take its grievances into account and make it feel ownership over reforms.”

According to Roj Welat, a spokesperson for the PKK, the report of the Crisis Group has some issues but still “searches for some kind of a solution to the Kurdish issue and has open suggestions. I think this is a valuable approach.” However, some Kurds are worried about the EU’s approach, after France arrested Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) member Adem Uzun on Oct. 10. Uzun was involved in talks between the state and the PKK in Oslo, Norway.