Situation of civil society organisations in Turkey

The EESC decided to create an EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) in 1995 based on the mandate given to it by the Ankara Agreement. Since then, thirty-two meetings of this EU-Turkey official joint body have been conveyed. The JCC has functioned as an instrument following the accession negotiations of Turkey to the EU, providing recommendations to the political authorities on both sides and promoting interaction between the economic and social actors of organised civil society in the EU and Turkey.

Within this JCC, members have always been strong promoters of Turkey's accession to the EU, and contributed significantly to deepening relations between the EU and Turkey by providing concrete guidance on issues of mutual interest such as trade union rights, women's role in Turkey or business cooperation.

However, following the Gezi Park events of May 2013, the Section for External Relations of the EESC decided to broaden EESC's relations with Turkish civil society organisation beyond JCC meetings. A fact-finding visit by three members was then organised in Istanbul and Ankara in September 2013. During this visit, contacts with new organisations were made, such as representatives of journalists, lawyers, doctors, human rights' activists, environmentalists, which allowed to hear new views and to get new perspectives on the growing difficulties for Turkish civil society organisations to conduct their activities.

In order to deepen the working relations with those organisations and keep monitoring the ongoing developments, at a time of tensed political climate in the country, this own-initiative opinion will review the legal framework as well as the current environment in which Turkish civil society currently operates.

The recommendations of the opinion will provide guidelines to the other EU institutions, especially to the Commission, on how to better support Turkish civil society organisations and improve their working conditions.