The Update: Turkey’s EU Accession Negotiations and The Social Policy in Turkey, 21.07.2012

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Health and safety at work, trade union law and the fight against poverty are the major areas in which Turkey should make reforms regarding the social policy chapter of the accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU. Every second delay for the reforms takes from the lives of the vulnerable people to disadvantages of inaction. Remember, recently 11 workers burned to death in Esenyurt. They were working in the construction of a shopping center and spending the night in a fabrik tent right in the middle of the ever cold winter; just one tent for all. Should enough legal arrangements and the audits of their implementation have been ensured by the government, they would not have passed away in such a tragical way.

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In 12th September 2010, the ruling party AKP announced they would like to enhance the
trade union rights, to ensure positive discrimination for women, better conditions for working life and more freedom for all. Everyone clapping AKP without questioning and unable to get what would happen at the backstage on the approval of those amendments, enthusiastically backed AKP for its unrealistic promises. Nowadays, they should be the ones who should bitterly regret about what they contributed to -including the EU. As for the 12th September referendum, there still exists an urgent need for the adjustment laws improving the provisions of the No. 2821 the Law on Trade Unions and No. 2822 the Law on Collective Bargaining Agreements. Regarding the social policy and employment chapter of EU-Turkey negotiations, two significant provisions of the revised European Social Charter (1996), ratified by Turkey in 2007, were reserved by AKP. One is Article 5, trade union rights, and the other is Article 6, collective action right including the right for collective bargaining. It is very interesting and remarkable that none of the 22 ratifier states of the revised Charter reserved the Article 5, and only Andora and Turkey reserved all the clauses of the Article 6. Beside the reservation on the core articles of the Charter, the problematic situation can be monitored in the implementation of the approved ones.1

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ILO conventions 87 and 98 regarding the trade union rights are the another side of the discussion. Despite the ruling AKP committed to sign and adopt the ILO conventions 87 and 98 in the Action Plan (2010) presented to the EU Commission, there has been no steps taken towards its promise. The reservations on the Charter and the related ILO conventions are also the opening benchmarks of the social policy and employment chapter.

Turkey is far behind the EU countries about the population at risk of poverty and especially
child poverty rate.2 In the latest year, the rate of the population under sixty percent of the
current median income was 24,4% which was interestingly behind even Greece (17,8%), Italy (19,9%) and Spain (20,6).3 Nevertheless, the ruling AKP implements social policies with a ‘charity’ concept rather than ‘social rights’. Those kinds of social aids do not have a
systematical character, mostly they are used as bribery at elections instead. Although the
European Commission urged for an action plan in the fight against high poverty and social
exclusion in each and every progress report since the beginning of the accession negotiations, the heart of the ruling party is not in a comprehensive national program nor even analyzing the vulnerable groups to poverty and social exclusion. Before an action plan, there should be drawn a poverty map of Turkey immediately.

For most people, it is a common idea that Greece did not report the right numbers about her
economic situation regarding the Union and Eurozone membership criteria to the European
Commission. The same should be avoided in case of Turkey. In the screening process for
negotiations in 2006, the Commission put very extensive questions regarding the chapters,
and the government replied those. The answers are worth observing if there is any make-up
on the poverty numbers.4

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As the numbers above and progress reports explicitly shows, the AKP ruling for a decade has
neither an idea about nor the intention to understand the notion of ‘social’. As long as the appropriate legal guarantee for the freedom of trade unions, decent works for all, enforcement of the health and safety legislation and a policy framework to combat poverty are not ensured, the ongoing labour exploitation which should be at the top of the agenda of the socialists and social democrats, lasts forever.

Selda Doğan

1http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/conclusions/State/Turkey2011_en.pdf
2 http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/43/41929552.pdf
3 http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=poverty
4 http://www.abgs.gov.tr/tarama/tarama_files/19/sorular%20ve%20cevaplar_files/SC19_cevaplar.pdf

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