Key findings of the 2022 Report on Türkiye

There are serious deficiencies in the functioning of Türkiye’s democratic institutions. During the reporting period, democratic backsliding continued. Structural deficiencies in the presidential system remained in place. Key recommendations from the Council of Europe and its bodies have yet to be addressed. Parliament continued to lack the necessary means to hold the government accountable. The constitutional architecture continued to centralise powers at the level of the Presidency without ensuring the sound and effective separation of powers between the executive, legislative and the judiciary. In the absence of an effective checks and balances mechanism, the democratic accountability of the executive branch continues to be limited to elections.

Despite the lifting of the state of emergency in July 2018, some legal provisions granting government officials extraordinary powers and retaining several of the restrictive elements of the state of emergency remained in place. The State of Emergency Inquiry Commission has yet to complete the examination of its caseload in relation to the public employees who were dismissed by decree-laws during the period of emergency rule. In July 2021, Türkiye’s Parliament adopted a bill that extends the duration of some of the restrictive elements of the state of emergency for one more year.

The judiciary continued to systematically target members of the opposition parties in Parliament, in relation to alleged terrorism-related offences. The legal framework for elections and political parties remains problematic. The electoral threshold was lowered from 10% to 7%. Türkiye has not yet addressed the remaining recommendations by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Venice Commission.

Pressure on mayors from opposition parties by the ruling coalition government further weakened local democracy. Mayors from the opposition parties faced administrative and judicial investigations. Local democracy in the south-east remained severely hampered. In the south-east, the forcibly dismissed mayors continued to be replaced by government-appointed trustees.

The situation in the south-east remained very worrying. In October 2021, Türkiye’s Parliament extended the military’s mandate to launch cross-border anti-terror operations in Syria and Iraq by two additional years. The Turkish government continued its domestic and cross-border security and military operations in Iraq and Syria. The security situation remained precarious in border areas with recurrent terrorist acts committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in acts of terrorism. The EU unambiguously condemned the PKK’s attacks and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims. The government has a legitimate right and a responsibility to fight terrorism, but it is essential that it does so in accordance with the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Anti-terror measures need to be proportionate. There were no developments on the resumption of a credible political peace process to achieve a sustainable solution.

Serious backsliding regarding civil society issues continued. Civil society organisations faced increased pressure and their space to operate freely continued to reduce, limiting their freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The implementation of the law on preventing financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction added further restrictions on civil society organisations.

Civilian oversight of the security forces has not been consolidated. Military, police and intelligence services’ accountability remained very limited. Parliamentary oversight of the security institutions needs to be strengthened. In July, the Parliament extended the retirement age of the Chief of General Staff from 67 to 72 allowing the incumbent Chief of General Staff to serve an additional year while the air and navy commanders have retired.

Türkiye has some level of preparation/is moderately prepared in the field of public administration reform. No progress was made during the reporting period. The country continues to lack a comprehensive reform agenda for public administration and public financial management and the government has not started any comprehensive reform of public administration. The administration’s accountability is insufficient, and its human resources management needs to be improved. Policy-making lacks evidence-based methods and participatory mechanisms. The politicisation of the administration continued. Women’s representation in civil service managerial posts remained low.

Türkiye’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. The serious backsliding observed since 2016 continued during the reporting period. Concerns remained, in particular over the systemic lack of independence of the judiciary and undue pressure on judges and prosecutors. Particular concerns relating to the judiciary’s adherence to international and European standards increased, in particular in relation to the refusal to implement rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. Implementation of the 2021 human rights action plan and the 2019 judicial reform strategy continued. However, both documents failed to address major shortcomings in the Turkish judiciary, lacking a plan for significant improvements to the overall functioning of the country’s judicial system. Only 515 judges or prosecutors dismissed following the coup attempt were reinstated, despite several being acquitted. The lack of objective, merit-based, standardised and pre-established criteria for recruiting and promoting judges and prosecutors remains a source of concern.

Regarding the fight against corruption, Türkiye remained at an early stage of preparations and made no progress in the reporting period. The country has not set up anti-corruption bodies in line with its international obligations. The legal framework and institutional architecture need to be improved to limit political and undue influence in the prosecution and adjudication of corruption cases. The accountability and transparency of public institutions need to be improved. The absence of an anti-corruption strategy and action plan indicated a lack of will to decisively fight corruption. Most of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) recommendations have not been implemented. Overall, corruption is widespread and remains an issue of concern.

Türkiye has some level of preparation in the fight against organised crime, however there was limited progress overall. The completion of an international agreement on the exchange of personal data between Europol and the Turkish authorities responsible for fighting serious crime and terrorism is still pending, as Turkish data protection legislation is not yet in line with the EU acquis. The legal framework regulating the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing needs to be improved in line with recommendations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and those by the Venice Commission on the law on preventing financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The deterioration of human and fundamental rights continued. Many of the measures introduced during the state of emergency remain in force. The legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, but the legislation and its implementation need to be brought into line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case-law. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly continued to monitor Türkiye’s respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Türkiye’s continued refusal to implement certain ECtHR rulings, notably in the cases of Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala, is a source of serious concern regarding the judiciary’s adherence to international and European standards and Türkiye’s commitment to promote the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. The infringement procedure started by the Council of Europe against Türkiye in February 2022, for non-implementation of the judgment in the Kavala case has marked yet another benchmark of Türkiye’s drifting away from the standards for human rights and fundamental freedoms that it has subscribed to as a member of the Council of Europe. In July, the Court ruled that Türkiye has failed to implement the 2019 ECtHR judgment on the Kavala case.

The human rights action plan adopted in 2021 continued to be implemented, but this does not address critical issues and has not led to an improvement in the overall human rights situation.

On freedom of expression, the serious backsliding observed in recent years continued. The implementation of criminal laws relating to national security and anti-terrorism continued to contravene the ECHR and other international standards and to diverge from the case-law of the ECtHR. Restrictive measures implemented by state institutions and increasing pressure with judicial and administrative means continued to undermine the exercise of freedom of expression. There continued to be criminal cases brought against and convictions of journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, writers, opposition politicians, students, artists and social media users.

There was further backsliding in the area of freedom of assembly and association. There were recurrent bans, disproportionate use of force and interventions in peaceful demonstrations; investigations, court cases and administrative fines against demonstrators on charges of terrorism-related activities or on violating the law on demonstrations and marches.

The rights of the most disadvantaged groups and people belonging to minorities need better protection. Roma people remained largely excluded from formal work and their living conditions deteriorated severely. Gender-based violence, discrimination, and hate speech against minorities (in particular against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) persons are still a matter of serious concern.

On migration and asylum policy, Türkiye made some progress. The EU-Turkey Statement remained the main framework for cooperation between the EU and Türkiye, and the EU’s engagement with Türkiye on migration intensified. Some progress was made on further strengthening capacity for surveillance and protection of the land border with Iran. The return of irregular migrants from the Greek islands under the EU-Turkey Statement continued to be suspended, as it has been since March 2020. In 2021, numbers of irregular migrants arriving increased on most routes in comparison to 2020. The increase could be partially due to the lifting of measures taken by countries in the region in 2020 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the number of irregular arrivals in Greece has decreased compared to pre-COVID figures, irregular arrivals to Italy and to the government-controlled areas of Cyprus have increased substantially in the past year and new smuggling routes have been established. Türkiye has still not implemented the provisions relating to third-country nationals in the EU-Türkiye readmission agreement, which entered into force in October 2017. Overall, the number of illegal border crossings between Türkiye and Greece remained significantly lower than it was prior to the adoption of the EU-Turkey Statement.

Türkiye continued to make significant efforts to host and meet the needs of one of the largest refugee communities in the world. Out of the full operational budget of EUR 6 billion under the Facility for Refugees, over EUR 4.7 billion was disbursed by June 2022. Efficient integration measures are needed to address the extended presence of refugees in the country. Access to public health for migrants and refugees should be improved. No outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks were fulfilled. Türkiye still needs to further align its legislation with the EU acquis on visa policy.

Türkiye’s unilateral foreign policy continued to be at odds with the EU priorities under the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), notably due to its military action in Syria and Iraq and a lack of alignment with EU restrictive measures against Russia. Türkiye maintained a very low alignment rate with the EU stand on foreign and security policy of 7% (as of August 2022). Türkiye’s military support to Libya, including the deployment of foreign fighters on the ground, and its persistent criticism of and lack of cooperation with Operation IRINI are detrimental to the EU’s effective contribution to implementing the UN arms embargo, and have led to conflicting approaches on Libya. Türkiye remains a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and shares with the EU the objective of a stable and prosperous Syria. However, its troops maintained a significant presence in the region and in other parts of northern Syria. Türkiye’s security concerns stemming from northern Syria should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not by military action, and in full respect of international humanitarian law.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine was recognised by Türkiye as a state of war and Türkiye condemned the Russian aggression. Türkiye enforced the Montreux Convention, whereby the passage of warships was limited to those returning to their bases. Turkish companies continued to sell military ordnance to Ukraine. Türkiye has aimed to facilitate talks between Ukraine and Russia and working on de-escalation and bringing about a cease-fire. It also undertook a diplomatic initiative to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain; the deal agreed by Ukraine and Russia on 22 July in Istanbul, facilitated by the UN and Türkiye, would not have been possible without the constructive role of Türkiye, which is also involved in facilitating the implementation of the deal. Nevertheless, Türkiye refrained from aligning with EU sanctions against Russia. Türkiye has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for developing economic and trade relations with Russia.

The improved dynamic in EU-Türkiye relations observed since December 2020, following the de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean, prevailed for several months before tensions in the Aegean resumed in April 2022. In November 2021, following the second review of the framework for restrictive measures, the Council extended the regime for one more year until 12 November 2022. Currently two individuals are subject to sanctions. While there were no unauthorised drilling activities by Türkiye in the Eastern Mediterranean during the reporting period, tensions have been rising. Turkish warships illegally obstructed survey activity in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone. Türkiye’s military exercises in the maritime zones of Cyprus continued. Despite the international community, and the EU in particular, condemning Türkiye’s unilateral steps, Türkiye continued with its actions to further reopen the fenced-off town of Varosha in Cyprus.

Türkiye needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice.

The June 2022 European Council expressed deep concern about recent repeated actions and statements by Türkiye. It recalled its previous conclusions and the statement of March 2021 and reiterated that Türkiye must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States. It emphasised that the European Council expects Türkiye to fully respect international law, de-escalate tensions in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, promote good neighbourly relations in a sustainable way and fully respect international law. The European Council has repeatedly recalled the EU’s strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Türkiye. The European Council also reaffirmed its readiness to engage with Türkiye in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner in a number of areas of common interest, subject to Türkiye meeting the established conditionalities set out in previous European Council conclusions, and provided that the de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean is sustained.

Regarding the economic criteria, the Turkish economy is well advanced, but made no progress over the reporting period. Serious concerns persist over the continued proper functioning of Türkiye’s market economy as there has been backsliding on important elements, such as the conduct of monetary policy and the institutional and regulatory environment. The economy recovered strongly from the COVID-19-crisis, growing by 11.4 % in 2021, and more than 7 % in the first half of  2022 despite the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The country’s overly loose monetary policy and lack of policy credibility have weakened the lira and have driven the official inflation to a two-decade high of more than 80%. Higher prices for imported commodities widened external imbalances, which remain a major vulnerability in a situation of increased uncertainty and low level of international reserves. Budget execution outperformed plans but government debt increased, and fiscal policy has come increasingly under pressure, burdened by unsuccessful attempts to curb rising inflation and underpin the domestic currency.

The institutional and regulatory environment remains fragile, particularly as regards the predictability, transparency, and implementation of regulations. Some important steps were taken to improve the resolution of commercial disputes. Despite a gradual decline, the informal sector still accounts for a significant share of economic activity. State intervention in the price-setting mechanisms persists. The provision of State aid lacks proper implementation rules, enforcement and transparency. The banking sector remained largely stable and capital adequacy above the regulatory requirements. Non-performing loans decreased, and profitability improved, but dollarisation and financial stability risks increased. The labour market recovered from the pandemic but deep‑seated structural challenges, such as a very significant gender gap, a high rate of youth unemployment, and wide regional disparities remain.

Türkiye has a good level of preparation and has made limited progress during the reporting period in developing its capacity to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces in the EU. Despite some progress in improving vocational training, the mismatch persists between the education system and labour market needs. Expenditure on research and development continued to increase very slowly and remained well below the government’s target. Investment activity slowed in the second half of 2021. Progress continued with regard to diversifying energy supplies and increasing the share of energy generated from renewable sources. The extension of local content requirement practices raises concerns. Türkiye removed some of the additional custom duties it had introduced in defiance of the commitments under the EU-Turkey Custom Union; however, extensive deviations from its obligations under the EU-Turkey Customs Union hinder bilateral trade.

Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of public procurement but made no progress over the reporting period and large gaps remained in its alignment with the EU acquis. Türkiye continued its discriminatory domestic price advantage and offset practices favouring local content. Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of statistics and made limited progress during the reporting period. Frequent managerial changes within the Turkish Statistical Institute over the last few years, including during the reporting period, have significantly undermined the institution’s credibility. The reliability of key economic data has been repeatedly called into question. Türkiye has a good level of preparation on financial control, though no progress was made during the reporting period. The Public Internal Financial Control policy paper has not yet been updated and the anti-fraud coordination service (AFCOS) network has not yet been re-established.

Regarding its ability to assume the obligations of membership, Türkiye’s alignment with the EU acquis continued to be very limited and pursued on a rather ad hoc basis.

The internal market cluster is key to the good functioning of the EU-Turkey Customs Union and to integrating Türkiye into the EU’s single market. Preparations in the areas of freedom of movement for workers and right of establishment and freedom to provide services are at an early stage, as many professions are closed to EU nationals. Türkiye has achieved a good level of preparation for the free movement of goods. Technical barriers to trade remained in place. Türkiye is moderately prepared on free movement of capital, as limitations continue on foreign ownership and on capital movement. Türkiye needs to continue to address outstanding issues in its framework regulating the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Türkiye is well advanced in the area of company law and needs to make further progress in aligning with the EU acquis. Türkiye has a good level of preparation in the area of intellectual property law but needs to improve enforcement. Türkiye has some level of preparation in the area of competition policy. Serious concerns persist in relation to the legislative framework, enforcement capacity and transparency in the field of State aid. Türkiye has a good level of preparation in the area of financial services and made some progress, including with the development of new alternative financing instruments. There is a good level of preparation in terms of legislative alignment of consumer and health protection, with some progress made, notably on aligning with the EU acquis and in strengthening inter-sectoral cooperation.

Within the cluster on competitiveness and inclusive growth, Türkiye has some level of preparation in the area of digital transformation and media, though it has continued to backslide. Türkiye’s preparations in the area of science and research are well advanced and Türkiye made good progress during the reporting period, notably with the conclusion of the association agreement for Horizon Europe for the 2021-2027 period. Türkiye is moderately prepared on education and culture and made some progress, in particular on vocational education, national qualifications systems and in terms of Türkiye’s participation in the EU programmes.

On the economy-related chapters, backsliding continued on economic and monetary policy, reflecting inefficient policy on ensuring price stability and anchoring inflation expectations. The central bank remains under significant political pressure and its functional independence needs to be restored. Türkiye made limited progress on enterprise and industrial policy, and major challenges in relation to measures incompatible with EU industrial policy principles remain unaddressed. No progress was made during the reporting period in the area of social policy and employment, with concerns remaining over trade union rights, the lack of genuine social dialogue and persistent levels of informal economic activity.

While Türkiye is moderately prepared on taxation, it made no progress during the reporting period and there remains a need for a clear strategy, avoiding frequent changes in tax rates and enabling tax information exchange with all EU Member States. Türkiye maintains a good level of preparation for the customs union but made limited progress, notably by removing some additional duties applied on imports of products originating in third countries. However, Türkiye’s deviations from its obligations under the EU-Turkey Customs Union continue, contributing to a high number of trade irritants.

Regarding the cluster on the Green Agenda and sustainable connectivity, Türkiye is moderately prepared in transport policy. It made limited progress during the reporting period, mainly linked to the adoption of a plan to significantly increase the use of railway transport. Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of energy and made limited progress overall. Progress continued on renewable energy deployment, on reforms in the natural gas sector and in legislative alignment on nuclear safety. Türkiye is well advanced on trans-European networks and made some progress, mainly on energy networks, thanks to the smooth operation of the trans-Anatolian pipeline. The construction of the Halkali-Kapikule railway line connecting the Bulgarian border to Istanbul continued. Türkiye has some level of preparation in the area of environment and climate change, but made no progress overall during the reporting period. Türkiye faces critical environmental and climate challenges, both in relation to mitigation and adaptation. More ambitious and better coordinated environment and climate policies need to be drawn up and implemented. Türkiye still needs to increase and implement its contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change and complete its alignment with the acquis on climate action.

On the cluster covering resources, agriculture and cohesion, Türkiye reached some level of preparation in the area of agriculture and rural development. Backsliding continued during the reporting period, as its agricultural policy keeps moving away from the main principles of the EU common agricultural policy and Türkiye continued to restrict imports of agricultural products from the EU. Türkiye is a major exporter of food products to the EU and made limited progress during the reporting period in the area of food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy. Full implementation of the EU acquis in this area requires significant further work.  Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of fisheries and continued to make good progress, notably as regards the implementation of the new fisheries law, resources and fleet management, and inspection and control. Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of regional policy and the coordination of structural instruments and continued to make some progress on accelerating the absorption of IPA II funds. Türkiye has some level of preparation in the area of financial and budgetary provisions, but made no progress during the reporting period.

In the external relations cluster, Türkiye is moderately prepared in the area of external relations and made limited progress in the reporting period, notably due to continued deviation from the Common Customs Tariff. Divergence from the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences persisted, in violation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union. Türkiye’s official development assistance was largely directed towards humanitarian support for the Syria-related activities on Türkiye’s own territory. Türkiye has some level of preparation in the area of foreign, security and defence policy. Overall, Türkiye’s foreign policy continued to be at odds with the EU priorities under the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). Türkiye’s non-alignment with EU restrictive measures against Russia is of particular concern due to the free circulation of products, including dual use goods, within the EU-Turkey Customs Union. This creates a risk of undermining EU restrictive measures. For the Customs Union to continue functioning the parties must fully respect existing rules and avoid undermining mutual trust.

Overall, in many areas, significant further work is needed on legislative alignment with the EU acquis. In all areas, implementation and enforcement needs substantial improvement. Ensuring the independence of regulatory authorities and developing administrative capacity are key for Türkiye to achieve further progress.

Key dates

September 1959: Türkiye applies for associate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC).

September 1963: Signature of the Association Agreement, aiming at enhancing economic cooperation and achieving a Customs Union between Türkiye and the EEC.

April 1987: Türkiye presents its formal application for membership of the European Economic Community.

January 1995: EU-Turkey Agreement creating a Customs Union.

December 1999: The European Council recognises Türkiye as a candidate country.

December 2004: The European Council agrees to start accession negotiations with Türkiye.

October 2005: Start of accession negotiations.

December 2006: The Council decides that eight negotiating chapters cannot be opened and no chapter can be closed until Türkiye meets its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional protocol to the Association Agreement.

December 2013: The EU-Turkey readmission agreement is signed in parallel with the launching of the visa liberalisation dialogue.

October 2014: The EU-Turkey readmission agreement enters into force.

March 2015: The European Commission and Türkiye launch a high-level energy dialogue.

May 2015: The European Commission and Türkiye agree to modernise the 20-year-old Customs Union Agreement and to enhance EU-Turkey bilateral trade relations.

November 2015: On the occasion of the EU-Turkey Leaders’ Meeting, both sides agree on the activation of a Joint Action Plan aiming at ending the irregular migration from Türkiye to the EU, in full compliance with EU and international standards.

March 2016: The EU and Türkiye agree on a joint Statement on the basis of the Joint Action Plan of November 2015.

May 2016: The third Report on progress by Türkiye in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap is published.

December 2016: The European Commission adopts a recommendation for opening negotiations with Türkiye on the modernisation of the Customs Union.

June 2018:  The General Affairs Council decides that Türkiye’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing due to Türkiye moving further away from the European Union.

November 2018: The EU-Turkey high-level political dialogue takes place in Ankara.

March 2019: The 54th EU-Turkey Association Council takes place in Brussels.

November 2019: The EU adopts a framework for targeted measures against Türkiye for its illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

March 2020: EU-Turkey Leaders’ meeting takes place in Brussels.

July 2020: The EU adopts an additional package of €485 million to continue the EU’s two flagship humanitarian programmes supporting refugees in Türkiye, on top of the €6 billion of the Facility for Refugees.

April 2021: The Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission meet the President of Türkiye in Ankara.

March 2021: The European Council expresses the EU’s readiness to engage with Türkiye in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation in a number of areas of common interest.

June 2021: The European Commission proposes to allocate €3 billion in additional assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Türkiye.

October 2021: The EU–Turkey high-level dialogue on migration and security takes place in Ankara.

November 2021: The EU-Turkey high-level dialogue on health takes place.

March 2022: The 80th EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee takes place in Brussels.

April 2022: The second EU-Turkey high- level dialogue on climate takes place in Ankara, following the first meeting of the dialogue in September 2021 in Brussels.

May 2022: The EU-Turkey high- level dialogue on agriculture takes place in Ankara.

May 2022: The EU-Turkey political directors meeting takes place in Ankara.

For More Information

Türkiye Report 2022

2022 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy

Türkiye Factograph