* EU calls for stronger oversight of police after protests
* EU executive backs plans to open new chapter talks
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, Oct 16 The European Union accused
Turkish police on Wednesday of using excessive force to quell
protests earlier this year, urging the government to strengthen
oversight of the police and to press ahead with investigations
into their conduct.
The criticism was contained in an annual report by the EU's
executive Commission into Turkey's progress in meeting the
requirements to join the 28-nation bloc.
Turkey began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years
after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably
over Cyprus and resistance to Turkish membership in key members
Germany and France, have slowed progress to a snail's pace.
Despite criticism of Ankara's handling of the protests, the
Commission backed plans to breathe new life into Turkey's EU bid
by opening talks on a new chapter, or policy area, of the
membership negotiations, the first to be opened in three years.
EU governments, led by Berlin, postponed plans to open the
talks on regional policy in June as a rebuke for the Turkish
authorities' handling of the demonstrations.
Protests against the government of Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan swept Turkish cities after police used teargas and water
cannon to disperse a sit-in against the redevelopment of an
Two weeks of clashes with police left four people dead and
about 7,500 injured.
"The excessive use of force by police and the overall
absence of dialogue during the protests in May/June have raised
serious concerns," the European Commission said.
"This underlines the urgent need for further reforms and the
promotion of dialogue across the political spectrum, and in
society more broadly, as well as for respect of fundamental
rights in practice," it said.
The Commission said Turkey had launched a number of
investigations into police conduct during the protests.
"These should be followed through in accordance with
European standards and those responsible brought to account," it
It urged Turkey to push ahead with plans to set up a
monitoring mechanism to ensure the independent supervision of
Despite the criticisms, the Commission praised judicial
reforms in Turkey and Erdogan's announcement last month of a
package of reforms designed to salvage a peace process with
There was no immediate reaction from Turkey.
Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis had complained on
Twitter at the weekend about the EU publishing the report during
the Muslim Eid al Adha festival, which began on Monday afternoon
and lasts all week.
His press adviser confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that the
government would not issue a response until after the holiday.
Turkey is deeply frustrated at what it sees as humiliating
treatment by Europe, which has turned public opinion in the
country against EU membership.
EU governments will consider the Commission's report at a
meeting on Oct. 22 and EU sources said they could decide to
launch the new round of talks with Turkey in early November.
While Turkey's membership bid has languished, Brussels has
moved faster to integrate the countries of the former
Yugoslavia. Croatia, which began negotiations on the same day as
Turkey, has already joined the bloc and Serbia won a green light
in June to start negotiations by next January.
The Commission proposed on Wednesday that EU governments
formally recognise Albania as a candidate for membership.