EU progress report : The European Union’s comments are scheduled to be issued October 16th.

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul — 07/10/13 – Turkey has entered a highly critical and busy period regarding its European membership negotia-tions. The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, is expected to publish its annual progress report on Turkey on Oct 16th.After the release of the report, the EU ministers are expected to announce their final assessment to start talks on a new chapter.

Cigdem Nas, general secretary of the Istanbul-based Economic Development Foundation, said she expects the report to highlight the disproportionate use of force by the police during the Gezi protests as well as the issues of freedom of expression and association. The EU has been critical of the government’s response to protests, which started on May 27th in central Istanbul’s Gezi Park and spread to other cities during June. The initial reason for the protests was to preserve the trees at the park from government plans to construct a shopping mall and a residence. The harsh response by security forces triggered a massive outcry for democratic rights. At least seven people died during the unrest and thousands more were injured.

Peter Stano, spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle, said the report was being finalized and declined to discuss specifics until it is issued. “The progress report makes an assessment on the developments and the progress in the areas im-portant for the accession process. At this point I am not going to speculate on what will be a crit-ical or non-critical issue,” he told SES Türkiye.

But Nas said analysts expect that the European Commission will discuss the peace process and Kurdish issues. “They will emphasise their concern that no progress has been made since last spring,” Nas told SES Türkiye. Kader Sevinc, CHP’s representative to the EU, said this year’s progress report likely would dis-cuss several important topics. “The report has to question the fairness of elections in a country where freedom of press, freedom of expression and the transparency of the public finances are severely reduced,” Sevinc told SES Türkiye.

Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s EU affairs minister, said he expected the progress report would have an objective tone and praise about the recently announced democratisation package. Bagis made his statement after meeting with Fule last week. Other recurring issues the report is expected to discuss include Cyprus, non-Muslim minorities and Turkey’s role regarding Syria.Turkey sought to have the report delayed because of the nation’s Sacrifice Day, a nine-day na-tional holiday, which will mean the closure of government offices and schools. EU officials re-jected the request.

Turkey started accession talks in 2005 and has finished one of 13 opening chapters. There are 35 chapters in the EU process. EU officials are expected to open Chapter 22 on Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments, after the progress report is released. EU ministers had originally decided to open talks on Chapter 22 but the decision was delayed after the Gezi Park protests.