Turkey-EU reform group to focus on ‘justice reform’

Turkey-EU reform group to focus on ‘justice reform’

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The Turkish government is set to hold this year’s second Reform Action Group meeting on Dec. 11, resuming the talks after a three-year pause in a move signaling its determination to join the European Union.

A statement issued after the previous Reform Action Group meeting, in August, had envisaged that the “judicial reform strategy will be updated with the participation of all stakeholders, the Turkish legal community and civil society.” The country’s justice minister held a meeting last month to hear the views of relevant parties.

The judicial reform strategy is scheduled to be updated and completed by the end of 2018.

A working group has been established by officials from the justice and foreign ministries to draft the judicial reform strategy in a way to meet the required standards of the EU and the Council of Europe, with the group putting in intense efforts to draft the text, which will be evaluated at the Dec. 11 meeting, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“The principles and assessments of the EU, the Council of Europe and other international organizations as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] will be taken into consideration in the drafting process. The aim of the new strategy is to further enhance trust in the judiciary, improve access to the justice system, increase its effectiveness and provide better protection for the right to trial within a reasonable time,“ the statement said.

In the working group meetings, the Foreign Ministry outlined the required standards and concerns raised by the Council of Europe and the EU, namely long detention periods, trials pending, speeding up trial periods, and independent judiciary. Ankara also wants to move on with the process for visa-free travel and the progress on benchmarks to launch talks for visa liberalization will be on the agenda of the reform group meeting.

Out of 72 criteria for the visa-free travel process, only seven remained to be met and biometric passports fully complying with EU standards were also ready. After the confirmation from the EU, the number of remaining criteria would officially decrease to six.

Regulations expected to be fulfilled by Turkey for visa liberalization are as follows: Operational cooperation between Turkey the European Police Service (Europol), along with the signing of a legal cooperation agreement with EU member countries, preparing third-generation passports, reviewing the law on the protection of personal data, reviewing draconian anti-terrorism legislation, and drawing an action plan to harmonize with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) — the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body.

Turkey and the EU Commission launched talks on Nov. 30 for an operational cooperation agreement with Europol, which is one of the benchmarks for visa-free travel.

The upcoming local elections in Turkey and the European Parliament elections in May are likely to delay the launch of visa liberalization talks.__Hurriyet

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