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Press Statement by H.E. Prof. Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Result of the Referendum Held in Turkey on 12 September 2010

    The Constitutional Amendment Package which foresees amendments to more than 20 articles of the Constitution was approved in the referendum held on 12 September 2010. Adopted initially by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 6 May 2010, the Package was finally approved in the referendum with a high turnout. As a result, a major step has been taken towards a more democratic Constitution.

    The Turkish people have thus clearly shown once more their will to live in a more free and democratic order, in line with the EU standards.

    A turnout rate of 77.11 percent was achieved in the referendum despite the various calls for “boycotting”. This success is, above all, the result of the Turkish people’s interest in the reform process, carried out in light of the universal and European norms. The fact that the package was supported by 57.8 percent of the total vote is of paramount importance to show that the democracy is strengthened in our country; our people’s voice is heard more strongly; the role of the Turkish Grand National Assembly is further consolidated and the constitutional work is carried out by civilian forces.

    In summary, with the constitutional amendments,

·        Citizens have been granted several new rights

·        The scope of the present constitutional rights has been extended

·        Mechanisms have been introduced with a view to protecting all constitutional rights through stronger guarantees

·        The safeguards of the rule of law have been reinforced

·        The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors have been restructured in line with the practices in democratic world and

·        Military jurisdiction has been limited.

    Thanks to the provisions in the package, fundamental rights and freedoms in many areas have been widened and our constitutional system has been brought in line with our international commitments. The majority of the amendments have made it possible to eliminate the shortcomings identified in the decisions of  the European Court of Human Rights and to comply with a range of recommendations and assesments, put forward either within the framework of the accession negotiations with the European Union or by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and several other international monitoring mechanisms.

    The above-mentioned amendments provide a constitutional ground for positive discrimination concerning the people who in need of protection against social discrimination, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled. The fact that the constitution embodies the rule of positive discrimination constitutes a very significant reform that strengthens the safeguard of constitutional rights. The right to request the protection of personal data is guaranteed under the constitution.

    With the new clauses on the protection of children’s rights, Turkey will adapt itself to the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention of the Council of Europe on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

    In view of the related charters of International Labor Organization and the decisions of ECHR, the right to form labour unions and the right to conclude collective labour agreements, including the right to conclude collective agreements for civil servants will be guaranteed.

    An important step is being taken for the establishment of an Ombudsman, which is needed in terms of harmonization with the EU standards.

    The number of members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors will be increased. Its composition, election procedure, working rules and its inspection will be arranged in line with the recommendations in the EU Progress Reports.

    For the first time, the right to information is clearly defined as a constitutional right.

    Jurisdiction of the military courts will be limited to military offenses, except in times of war.

    The composition of the Constitutional Court, election of its members and working rules will be improved in line with the needs of our country and the practices in different countries, particularly in those of EU member states.

    The adoption of the Constitutional amendment package is a significant turning point for Turkish democracy.

    In the Constitutional amendment package, which will elevate our democracy to higher norms and standards in every field, in light of EU Copenhagen political criteria that we should comply with in our EU accession process, utmost importance was given to the points stated in the Accession Partnership Document and Progress Reports. On the other hand, the amendments are in consonance with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the related documents of the Council of Europe. In addition, they will enable us to fulfill certain recommendations by different monitoring mechanisms within the Council of Europe structure.

    With the implementation of the amendments in the package, a considerable part of the opening benchmarks of the Chapter 23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, which is one of the most important chapters in our accession negotiations process, will be met.

    These developments, which constitute an important milestone in Turkey’s democratic transformation process, are expected to be reflected in the Progress Report and Enlargement Strategy Document to be prepared by the European Commission in the coming period and will contribute to moving forward our negotiation process.

    The result of the referendum has clearly manifested once again our people’s support vis-à-vis the democratic reform process. Thus, it will undoubtedly strengthen the EU perspective of our country.

    The Constitutional amendments will not only provide our people with the standards compatible with those of the EU in many fields of their lives, but will also contribute positively to our image in the world by showing Turkey’s progress towards a more modern and stronger democracy.