A Turkish reform package has been backed in a national referendum which has been seen by many as the country’s way into the European Union. It puts the country in line with a number of EU policies.
In the referendum on the suggested reforms to the country’s constitution, 58 per cent of voters supported a change to the document. The vote took place on 12 September, exactly 30 years after it was drawn up following a military coup.
The 26 amendments involve the introduction of gender equality and anti-discrimination policies, the removal of a ban on politically orientated strikes, and the possibility of civilian courts trying military personnel for crimes against the state.
The reform is seen as a step towards democracy by giving less power to the military.
However, the opposition claims that it would give excessive control over the judiciary to Turkey’s governing party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
John Peterson, Professor of International Politics at Edinburgh University, said to The Journal: “This is an encouraging and progressive result. It shows that Turkey is entering the European mainstream. Its current government has shown that it is both competent and focused on modernising Turkey.”
Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 but the negotiations did not start until the end of 2005. It is set to complete a total of 33 chapters of negotiations to bring all its laws into compliance with the EU law; only 13 chapters have been opened to date, and only one, on science and research, completed.
Mahmet Mertcan, a UK resident for over 22 years, recognises his home country’s importance to the European Union: “Turkey occupies a strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is already an important European trading partner and its population would be both a vast market for European goods and a ready labour force.”
He also said that he would have voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum: “The result is what I expected and what I wanted. This referendum brings Turkey new positive outlook. It will bring equal rights to many people.”