Summary on the 2022 EU Enlargement Package regarding Turkey

In 2018, negotiations regarding Turkey’s accession the European Union (EU) came to a standstill as no further chapters could have been discussed for the foreseeable future. However, both parties maintained an amicable relationship, working toward a future where they could collaborate on common interests. In March of 2021, the European Commission expressed its readiness to cooperate with Turkey on joint areas such as counterterrorism, food security, migration trade and energy. To date, Turkey remains a key partner of the EU in its facilitated dialogue between Russia and Ukraine in the agreement on the export of grains. However, tension in the Eastern Mediterranean remains high with the EU urging Turkey to encourage stability within the region.

This summary discusses the 2022 EU Enlargement policy report as communicated by the European Commission in its 2022 Enlargement package. The report tackles multiple areas in which the EU has expressed concern such as fundamental freedoms and democracy in Turkey. The summary will also relay the report’s findings when it comes to education, culture and employment policies. All of which reflect on Turkey’s accession to the EU.

  1. Fundamental Rights

Freedom of expression and association

Of the most crucial rights that spark controversy in Turkey, freedom of expression has been under scrutiny by the government of Turkey which did not go unnoticed. The 2022 Turkey report states that currently Turkey is in the early stages of taking a European-based human right approach when it comes to the dissemination of opposition voices and freedom of expression. Many instances regarding criminal cases and convictions of journalists, students, lawyers and human rights defenders continue in the country.

For instance, the legislative environment regarding the internet, anti-terrorism and the Criminal Code limit the exercise of freedom of expression. There have been reports of selective and arbitrary application of legislation raise concerns regarding the rule of law and the right to a fair trial. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers strongly urged the Turkish authorities to consider changes to the Criminal Code as many cases related to freedom of expression have been lodged to the European Court of Human Rights.

As for freedom of assembly and association, the report states that there had been some serious backsliding by the Turkish government as implementation and legislation are not in line with the Turkish constitution, European standards or the international conventions which Turkey is party to. Many human rights defenders have been detained or arrested due to their exercise of their freedom of association. This included prominent non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Association which were subjected to police raids.

Women’s and Children’s rights

It had been evident that the regression concerning the right of women and girls in Turkey has had tangible effects in the country. The presidential decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence had been met with serious backlash from the public. Turkey is in the process of implementing The Fourth National Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women (2021-2025) yet, there had been 339 killing of women in 2021 alone. Turkey lacks a robust system for data collection to assess the nature of this issue. There are numerous concerns regarding women’s right as hate speech increased against independent women organizations and women’s participation in politics and decision making is low.  On the other hand, some penalties were increased for violence against women who are or were the spouse of the perpetrator in July 2021.

In the area of the rights of the child, Turkey needs to improve its juvenile justice system. There has been reports of continuous juvenile arrests on charges of membership to terrorist organizations and often, detained in non-juvenile institutions. Turkey had shown limited progress in tackling and reducing core issues related to child marriages and gender-based violence against children. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 have been tangible when it came to the decreased education of the Roma children.

Rights of persons with disabilities

Turkey has started its National Action Plan on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which will be its implementation tool for its 2030 Barrier Free Vision Document. Turkey needs an independent implementation and monitoring framework as required by the UN Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is also true for mental health and Turkey does not have a concrete foundation for mental health monitoring and implementation in the country. Moreover, community-based care services, including foster care and adoption, need to be expanded for minors with disabilities who are in need of state protection.

  1. Education and culture

In Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Turkey, the net enrolment rate (NER) for preschool education largely decreased from 71.22 % in 2019-2020 to 56.89 % in 2020-2021 and the combined NER for Turkish children between 3 and 5 years old decreased from 41.78 % to 28.35 %. It is important to note that as the country’s efforts to improve accessibility to persons with disabilities, the number of students in special education increased from 425 774 in 2020 to 425 816 in 2021. For persons with special needs, Turkey continued to invest towards inclusive education instead of segregated settings, yet the school closures due to COVID-19 have affected the access of such students to education. It is worth to note that Turkey is in an advanced stage in implementing the Bologna measures despite the disparity in quality of education between Turkey’s 207 higher education institutions.

In 2022, Turkey had declared the year as the Year of Youth Participation. Turkey also participates in the European Year of the Youth. Turkish youth organisations showed high levels of interest in the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes, which continue to be major sources of funding for international youth exchange activities in Turkey.

In the post-pandemic era, Turkey’s cultural sector suffered from inadequate and unsustainable funding. Non-governmental cultural actors were hindered by the insufficient cultural infrastructure, lack of professionalism and limited management capacities. Also, the number of books obtaining the warning “harmful for minors/ +18” has increased. Six publications were declared “obscene” in 2021. The books were focused on gender-based rights, gender identity or included LGBTQI characters, and such measures pose a threat to freedom of publication.


  1. Social policy and employment

The labour market situation in Turkey has slightly improved. The employment rate (15+) increased to 45.2 % in 2021 from 42.7 % in 2020. The rate increased for men to 62.8 % from 59.4 %, for women to 28 % from 26.2 %. Unemployment rate (15+) decreased from 13.1 % to 12 % in 2021. The unemployment rate for women remained almost at the same level with 14.7 %. The youth unemployment rate (15-24) decreased from 24.9 % in 2020 to 22.6 % in 2021. The rate of young people neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) aged 15-24 decreased from 28.4 % in 2020 to 24.7 % in 2021; however for women, the rate is still quite high at 32.4 %. Turkey adopted its first National Youth Employment Strategy and Action Plan (2021-2023) in October 2021.

In the area of social inclusion and social protection, Turkey still requires a policy framework for poverty reduction. The accelerating inflation levels pose risks for vulnerable segments of the population. It is worth to note that social assistance payments amounted to TRY 97.8 billion or 1.74% of the GDP. Furthermore, Turkey needs a solid strategy and action plan for non-discrimination in employment and social policy. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is not prohibited by law. The role of Human Rights and Equality Institution (HREI) and the Ombudsman remained limited in combating discrimination in employment. Employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector is reported to be challenging, partly due to limited physical accessibility, prejudices and skills mismatch. Efforts are needed to prevent discrimination for LGBTIQ in employment and social policy.

In employment and social policy, the gender gap in the labour market has remained high. Legislation needs to be improved for a better work-life balance. To achieve this, half-time work allowances were paid to 4,841 beneficiaries in 2021. The employment rate for women (18-64 age group) in case there are children in the household remained below the EU average. Women’s employment is hindered due to insufficient access to quality and affordable formal care services and the gender bias in caring responsibilities and discriminatory stereotypes. Some programmes supporting employment of mothers with children were terminated by the end of 2021.

In conclusion, Turkey lacks concrete implementation of polices regarding its fundamental rights such the freedom of speech and association. The situation concerning social policy, discrimination and the juvenile justice system need to have proper monitoring framework. There was some progress in terms early education and youth participation in the EU programmes. Still, Turkey needs to align its goals with its intent to accede the European Union.

Written by Ruwaifa Al-Riyami

Image Source :


European Commission, (2022). Türkiye 2022 Report: 2022 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy. European Commission.

The unlawful pushback of refugees and asylum seekers at the borders of the European Union

Human rights are fundamental parts of our social and governance systems. These universal rights are inherent to every individual regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race or sex[1]. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), every individual has the right to life, liberty and security (Article 3), shall not be subject to torture (Article 5) or arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9)[2]. In addition, Article 13 and 14 of the UDHR lay down that people have the right to leave any country, including their own to seek asylum in other countries due to fear of persecution in their home country[3]. However, despite all the international norms and legal frameworks in place today, the abovementioned rights of many individuals are violated when they seek refuge in foreign countries. In particular, a recent study found that hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers are being pushed back at the borders of the European Union when they try to escape their home countries in the hope of a better life[4].

The refugee crisis in Europe started in 2015 when a huge influx of third-country nationals arrived at the borders of the European Union. According to the statistics of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than five million refugees arrived at the borders of the Union by 2016[5]. Although the biggest wave of the crisis is over, still many refugees arrive to Europe nowadays as there were over half a million asylum applications submitted to the European Union in 2021[6].

However, tens of thousands of refugees are pushed back at the borders to prevent them from entering the European Union[7]. For instance, it has been reported that Spain deports unaccompanied minors to Morocco which puts the vulnerable refugee children at risk of exploitation and violates their human rights[8]. Another example is the case of Syrian refugees who wanted to enter Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina but were pushed back by the Croatian police officers, were beaten and unlawfully detained[9]. Additional countries that were found to be unlawfully denying entry for refugees and pushing them back at the borders with the use of force and violence include Greece, Hungary, Italy and Malta. In addition, Bulgaria is also one of the countries that unfairly pushes back refugees without any assessment of individual cases. This is illustrated by the case of a Turkish journalist who fled Turkey because he was suspected to be part of the Gülen movement which is perceived as a terrorist organization, he was fired from his workplace and feared further reprisals[10]. When arriving at the borders, Bulgarian officers failed to assess his case, disregarded his fear of persecution and return in Turkey, and forced him to sign documents he did not understand[11]. In less than 24 hours after his arrival he was handcuffed and handed over to the Turkish authorities, was held in detention and later sentenced to seven years of prison for his alleged support of the Gülen movement[12].

This case perfectly demostrates the core idea of the Refugee Convention of 1951 that was signed by all the member states of the European Union and that lays down that refugees must not be returned to a country where they face threats to their life and human rights. This is the principle of non-refoulement which is an essential component of refugees’ and asylum seekers’ protection and is part of customary international law, which means that it also applies to states that have not ratified the Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. The original Convention had a limited geographical and time scope as it was only applicable to refugees of World War II, but its additional Protocol of 1967 removed this restriction and this extention of the treaty was also ratified by all EU states. In this sense, countries that unlawfully push back refugees, deny their entry and reject their asylum application without assessment not only violate their human right to life, security, movement and not being subject to torture, arbitrary arrest and detention as laid down in the UDHR, but also breach international law and norms since many of these refugees fled their country due to fear of persecution.

What even further exacerbates the problem is the fact that often times the European Union itself is indirectly funding these pushbacks, thereby supporting human right violations and going against the Union’s core values. The pushbacks were found to often be carried out with the help of Europe’s border agency Frontex which uses the Union’s financial resources. The European Ombusdman found that the European Commission has been providing funding for border control since 2018 but only established an independent monitoring mechanism to safeguard human rights at the borders in the middle of 2021[13]. The Ombudsman ruled that while the Commission lacks the authority to investigate the protection of human rights at border activities, it has the authority as well as the obligation to ensure that the Union’s funds are spent in compliance with EU law and human rights law[14]. Therefore it is the Commission’s responsibility to make sure that funds are not allocated to activities that are not in line with the European Union’s values and international law, such as the unlawful pushback of refugees. Furthermore, according to Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission can initiate so-called infringement prodecures which are legal procedures to ensure that member states are complying with EU law[15]. This means that the European Commission can fulfil its obligation of overseeing the protection of human rights inside member states by establishing and funding monitoring bodies and in case of a breach it can initiate such an infringement prodecude and bring the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. In addition, the Commission can also introduce conditionality between human rights protection and funding, which means that it can establish a system to make funds conditional and withhold funds from member states that do not comply with EU laws and values[16].


In conclusion, fundamental human rights are violated at the borders of Europe and the EU as refugees and asylum seekers are often pushed back and experience violence. Refugees are threatened, assaulted, abused and detained, left to die on their boats or thrown into the sea, which results in thousands of tragic deaths that could have been easily prevented[17]. This violates their human rights, namely the right to life, security and movement, as well as the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, which poses a severe threat to these innocent people’s physical well-being. Lastly, the European Commission is not only ignoring but also funding these human right violations which contradicts the values of the Union. Refugees are inherently a highly vulnerable group and have less access to national courts to enforce their rights and make their voice heard. Therefore it is the responsibility of the EU and its member states to ensure that refugees’ fundamental rights, and it is the European Commission’s obligation to make sure that the funds allocated to member states for border control and asylum application procedures are spent in compliance with the Union’s values as well as international law and norms.


Written by Réka Gyaraki




Bulgaria’s pushback practice censured by ECtHR. (n.d.). European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. (2020). Dossier Migration.

European Ombudsman. (2022). Decision concerning how the European Commission monitors and ensures respect for fundamental rights by the Croatian authorities in the context of border management operations supported by EU funds (case 1598/2020/VS).

European Union. (1957). Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

OHCHR. (n.d.). What are human rights?

Refugee Crisis in Europe: Aid, Statistics and News | USA for UNHCR. (n.d.).

Rijpma, J., & Fotiadis, A. (2022). Addressing the Violation of Fundamental Rights at the External Borders of the European Union. The Greens/European Free Alliance.

Statistics on migration to Europe. (2020). European Commission.

United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


[1] OHCHR. (n.d.). What are human rights?

[2] United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rijpma & Fotiadis. (2022). Addressing the Violation of Fundamental Rights at the External Borders of the European Union

[5] USA for UNHCR. (n.d.). Refugee Crisis in Europe

[6] European Commission. (2020). Statistics on Migration to Europe

[7] Rijpma & Fotiadis. (2022). Addressing the Violation of Fundamental Rights at the External Borders of the European Union

[8] European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. (2020). Dossier Migration

[9] Ibid.

[10] European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. (n.d.). Bulgaria’s pushback practice condemned by ECtHR

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] European Ombudsman. (2022). Decision concerning how the European Commission monitors and ensures respect for fundamental rights by the Croatian authorities in the context of border management operations supported by EU funds (case 1598/2020/VS)

[14] Ibid.

[15] European Union. (1957). Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

[16] Rijpma & Fotiadis. (2022). Addressing the Violation of Fundamental Rights at the External Borders of the European Union

[17] Rijpma & Fotiadis. (2022). Addressing the Violation of Fundamental Rights at the External Borders of the European Union