Local democracy "seriously" weakened in Turkey  
Local democracy "seriously" weakened in Turkey
​The European Committee of the Regions has voiced "concern" about the Turkish government's crackdown in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July 2016, "especially the detentions and removal from office of elected mayors", describing these actions as "seriously" weakening "pluralist democracy at the local level".

The assessments are contained in the annual review by the European Union's assembly of local and regional politicians of progress in the EU's enlargement process, which was adopted on 12 May. At the same time, the CoR stated that "an effective working relationship between local and regional authorities on both sides can contribute… to rebuilding some of the trust between Turkey and the EU" and urged the Turkish government to heed a long-standing call by the CoR for an upgrade in contacts between the CoR and local and regional leaders in Turkey.

The opinion, by Rait Pihelgas (EE/ALDE), mayor of Ambla, presses the European Commission to report "more effectively and in more detail" on local and regional governance in the seven would-be members of the EU: Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Around 70% of EU legislation requires implementation by local and regional authorities, and the success of any future enlargement of the EU therefore rests on effective local and regional management.

The opinion urges the EU to show that it "remains open to all those who wish to achieve the same objectives and share the same values". It emphasises that regions and cities in the area could increase cross-border cooperation, engage young people, and help to explain the potential benefits of EU membership to voters. The CoR's recommendations place special emphasis on the rule of law and fundamental rights, economic development and migration.

In a country-by-country review, the CoR voices concern about the situation in Turkey and the state of reforms in Macedonia, as well as urging Bosnians to coordinate the work of "all levels of government and administration" and to "move beyond individual interests". Among the progress it highlights, the opinion welcomes Montenegro's pending admission to NATO, Albania's "relative progress" on "key reform priorities", Montenegro's efforts to professionalise its local civil service, and the ongoing normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

The adoption of the opinion was preceded by a debate with the president of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in which Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (AU/PES) noted that the Council of Europe is addressing rule-of-law issues in Turkey, Hungary and Poland, where planned reforms of local government are "of concern". As part of its critique of actions by the Turkish government that the Council believes are damaging local democracy and "seriously weakening" civil society and political parties, the Council has called for the annulment of decisions to remove mayors.

Separately, Ms Mosler-Törnström emphasised the record of cooperation over the past ten years between the two assemblies for local and regional politicians, as well as the complementary nature of the Council of Europe and the EU. "Our work provides the foundation for the work of the EU," she said. Ms Mosler-Törnström particularly emphasised the potential for cooperation between the two assemblies on corruption, the monitoring of local elections and developing relations with local and regional authorities along and beyond Europe's eastern and southern borders.