Turkey and the Codification of Autocracy

Friday, 10 March 2017

Turkey’s Parliament has approved a constitutional reform bill that will come into effect if approved in the national referendum on 16 April 2017. This controversial package seeks to replace the current parliamentary system with a fully fledged executive presidential system, without checks and balances.

If President Erdoğan’s constitutional reform bill is approved, it will centralise power around the presidency and the current separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches will cease to be. This raises the question of whether Turkey, with its new constitution, will continue to satisfy the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership.

Most EU leaders and institutions have remained conspicuously silent on the matter of constitutional ‘reform’ in Turkey. Considering the country’s backsliding on compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria, the authors of this paper argue that it is time for the EU to deliver a strong message that draws attention to the undemocratic nature of the amendments and the possibility of suspending accession talks if the bill is passed. The EU’s red line on the reintroduction of the death penalty should not become a red herring to divert attention from the deeply problematic constitutional ‘reform’ process. Similarly, Turkey’s strategic importance should not override the Union’s core democratic principles.

Steven Blockmans is Head of the EU Foreign Policy unit at CEPS and Professor of EU External Relations Law and Governance at the University of Amsterdam. Sinem Yilmaz is a PhD candidate at Ghent University and an intern at CEPS EU Foreign Policy unit.

CEPS series: Policy Insights  No. of pages: 20

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