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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Opening remarks of Commissioner Füle at the EU-Turkey working group on Chapter 23
Third meeting of the working group on chapter 23 - Judiciary and fundamental rights
Ankara, 17 June 2014
I am glad to be here today with Ministers Çavuşoglu and Bozdağ at this third meeting of the working group on chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights. This meeting is a fundamental element in our joint efforts to address issues relevant for the progress in the accession process.
As you are well aware I attach a great importance to engaging with Turkey on all political criteria-related issues which are so much at the centre of the accession process.
An independent and impartial judiciary and the respect for fundamental rights are of a crucial significance for EU accession. They are at the very heart of the European values. Hence our strong insistence on continuing engagement with the Turkish partners on these matters.
İt is not about comparing the exact language of the particular pieces of the Turkish legislation with the existing EU laws. It is about ensuring that the basic principles and standards of the EU are followed in a way that safeguards the European values - such as independence of judiciary and separation of powers.
It will never work unless the public gains confidence that the changes have a real impact on Turkish citizens: empower them, providing them with more guarantees for their rights and freedoms. I am not talking about an academic exercise but about efforts where the overall goal is that the people feel that there has been a change.
It is important to create and sustain the momentum of our engagement on these issues in the coming months to achieve real and tangible results.
It is my task, as the Commissioner for Enlargement, to report on the developments in all candidate countries and to assist them in the alignment efforts. I do hope that after this meeting, I can report back in Brussels to the Council and the European Parliament that despite recent turbulences, Turkey is willing to move reforms forward. Your strong commitment to further reforms is indispensable.
I have already witnessed a number of courageous and positive reforms implemented by Turkey. Let's not undermine these efforts. We have invested a lot, time, energy and also financial resources. Now we need to re-accelerate the process, starting hopefully from this meeting.
Today provides an opportunity to exchange views on the basis of the reports drafted by independent experts. These reports have been shared with the Turkish authorities and I hope that, once finalised, they will be used as a roadmap for the future reforms in the area of judiciary and freedom of expression.
I would like to thank the Ministers and their Ministries for the excellent cooperation we have seen on the peer reviews in the last months. I hope that the future cooperation, including the discussion on steps deriving from their recommendations, will continue to be in the same way.
Let me in this respect recall the importance of early consultations on legislation affection judiciary, rule of law and other relevant areas ahead of the adoption of legislation in order to ensure that it brings Turkey closer to the EU standards and not further away.
In order to build consensus on important pieces of legislation within parliament and Turkish society it is important to ensure broad consultations with civil society on the legislation of public interest. It is one of the principles of mature democracy that decisions are being taken as transparently as possible and where every citizen has an opportunity to freely express and exchange publicly his or her views.
I am looking forward to interesting presentations and I would expect, as I have already indicated in my meeting this morning with the Minister of Justice, that we will all have at the end of this morning meeting a better idea of the "how" and on the "what" we will be working together on in the next few weeks and months to set the tonality of the October Progress Report.