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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Turkey’s compulsory religion course violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ (ECHR) article regarding the right to education, and urged Turkey to switch to a new system in which students would not be required to take such a class.

The ECtHR announced its verdict on Tuesday regarding appeals filed by 14 Turkish citizens in Ankara in 2011 against the compulsory Culture of Religion and Knowledge of Morality course given at Turkish schools. Stating that recent changes made to the class’ course books are not enough to keep the class from violating the ECHR, the court reminded the Turkish state of its “obligation to be neutral and impartial” regarding religious issues.

The high court said that arrangements should made as soon as possible so that students will no longer have to take the class and that such a course should be offered as an elective.

SOURCE: http://www.todayszaman.com/latest-news_european-court-tells-turkey-to-end-compulsory-religion-course_358871.html

Recent developments in the Middle East ramp up the importance of Turkey’s membership for the EU, Italy’s state secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said, vowing to revive Turkey’s stalling membership process.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the daily Hürriyet, Gozi said the real motivation behind granting membership candidacy to Turkey was external security and economic interests between the EU and Turkey, as well as support to the transformation and modernization of Turkish society.

According to the Italian parliamentarian recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East has made Turkey’s membership bid even more crucial.

“[Turkey’s] membership is much more important than 10 years ago because of [the recent turmoil and violence in] Syria and Iraq and the strong economic integration between the EU and Turkey,” Gozi said, whilst being interviewed by the daily Hürriyet’s Cansu Çamlıbel Continue Reading »

Turkey has drawn praise from the Council of  Europe or its recent judicial moves to allow citizens to apply directly to the country’s highest court ahead of a European-wide convention of constitutional court judges.

The conference will have an “emphasis on the recent experience of the Turkish Constitutional Court and provide a forum for an exchange of best practices of individual petition systems in Europe,” a statement from the Council of Europe said prior to the July 7 meeting in Strasbourg to discuss judges’ increasing role in preventing and remedying violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Different approaches to individual complaint mechanisms in the member states will also be explored,” the statement added. Continue Reading »

As a former Turkish diplomat, who worked tirelessly for his country to join the European Union (EU) at some point, I do not take pleasure in saying that this ambitious federal project is not going anywhere and that, after all, it may not be worth becoming a member in the foreseeable future of this exclusive club, once viewed as a golden prize for candidate countries.

Clearly, the EU project is not progressing in its current form the way it was designed by its founding fathers. All ambitious blueprints and goals often remain on paper and detached from reality on the ground. Yes, the “European integration movement” has gone through its cycle of ups and downs in history – two steps forward, one step back, like the Janissary Band’s (Mehter) March. This time around, there are even fewer signs that its success will follow the gloomy years we have experienced over the past decade or so. Continue Reading »

Turkey would find it very hard to continue in a customs union with Europe if the country is excluded from a free trade deal with the United States, but quitting the union is not an option, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said May 15.

Turkey is pressing to be included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the United States and the European Union, which would cut tariffs and harmonize regulations in the world’s biggest economic blocs.  Continue Reading »

Turkey’s leaders have raised question marks about the future of the fundamental values on which the European Union was founded while still emphasizing that full membership in the union remains a strategic desire of the country.

“Today, the European Union is facing changes in the international system as well as the impact of the global economic crisis,” President Abdullah Gül said May 9, suggesting the EU might move away from its founding philosophy if the right decisions were not made.

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A leading European Commission official has urged the Turkish government to stop attacking the European Union and engage more deeply in cooperation.

Stefano Manservisi, who was recently named the new head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, called the relationship between the bloc and Turkey “extremely strong” in financial and political terms as well as in the “people dimension.” However, the Italian said he finds recent anti-EU remarks from Turkish politicians “concerning.”  Continue Reading »

Despite strong criticisms raised by the European Union over the Turkish government’s recent legal regulations and bans on social media which violate the union’s core values, including the separation of powers, the rule of law and freedom of speech, the EU is unwilling to shelve Turkey’s membership though it may adopt a harsher stance.

“Legal amendments and bans may cause Turkey to backtrack in its EU bid by slowing down the negotiation process. However, there are also constructive voices within the EU who reject leaving Turkey alone. I expect the membership process to continue in spite of all obstacles,” Özgür Ünlühisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund (GMF), said in remarks to Sunday’s Zaman on Thursday.
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A few years ago, Turkey was the rising power of the Middle East, content to turn away from closer ties with Europe towards its Sunni allies. But with chaos in Syria and Egypt, its fortunes have changed drastically.

Following a string of setbacks that has left it increasingly isolated in Europe and the Middle East, Turkey has started a push to repair ties with key neighbors and partners.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met top EU officials in Brussels this week for the first time in five years, is also due to visit neighboring Iran next week. One day before he flies to Tehran, on Jan. 28, Erdogan will host French President Francois Hollande, whose country has been one of the actors slowing down Turkey’ process of joining the EU. Continue Reading »

European Union officials have called on Turkey to respect the principles of the rule of law and separation of powers as well as the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, while hosting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his first visit to Brussels after five years.

In a joint news conference after meeting Erdogan earlier on Tuesday, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stated: “Whatever the problems are in Turkey, solutions should respect the separation of powers and rule of law. The issues can be addressed within the limits of EU standards.”

Barroso also added that Prime Minister Erdogan told him earlier of his intention to take further steps to meet EU criteria on certain issues.
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