MEPs expressed deep concern at recent allegations of high-level corruption in Turkey and stressed that constitutional reform must remain the top priority for its modernisation and democratisation, in a resolution voted on Wednesday. In their assessment of Turkey's 2013 progress report, they also said its negotiations with the EU must continue to provide a clear framework for Turkey's reforms.

The resolution regrets the removal of the prosecutors and police officers in charge of the original high-level corruption investigations, stressing that this goes against the fundamental principle of an independent judiciary. An impartial and independent judiciary is vital to a truly democratic state, MEPs say.

"Turkey has embarked on reform for the benefit of its own citizens. Recent developments in the area of fundamental freedoms, independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and others are however a cause of grave concern for us. We now need a serious, constructive dialogue with Turkey on these subjects and Turkey needs to show true commitment to its European aspirations and to the values upon which the EU is founded," said rapporteur on Turkey Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL).

Protect individual freedoms

MEPs point out that a draft law on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and a draft internet law, which are seen as restricting fundamental freedoms, take Turkey away from meeting the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession. They ask the Council to make efforts to open accession negotiating chapters 23 and 24, on judiciary and fundamental rights and on justice and home affairs.

Promote consensus

MEPs are also worried about political polarisation in Turkey and the unreadiness of the government and the opposition to build consensus on key reforms and draft a new constitution. They say that the unprecedented wave of protests reflects the legitimate aspirations of many Turkish citizens for deeper democracy and ask the authorities to promote tolerance and guarantee freedom of religion and belief and freedom of assembly for all.

The Parliament encourages the Turkish authorities to undertake the reforms needed to promote social, cultural and economic rights of the Kurdish community. MEPs also encourage Turkey to pursue electoral reform, including lowering the 10% electoral threshold, and efforts to combat violence against women and empower civil society.

Reunifying Cyprus

MEPs welcome the joint declaration by the leaders of the two communities on Cyprus on re-launching the reunification talks and ask Turkey to actively support these negotiations for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement.

The resolution was passed by 475 votes to 153, with 43 abstentions.