[JURIST] The Turkish government on Monday unveiled a controversial new reform bill proposing amendments [text, PDF; in Turkish] to 22 articles of the Turkish Constitution in hopes of making the government more democratic and strengthening the country's bid to join the European Union (EU) [admission criteria]. The proposed amendments cover a wide range of issues [Hurriyet report], including the judicial system, women's rights, and collective bargaining for civil servants. The major reforms proposed include an amendment that would make party closures more difficult and an amendment to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HYSK) and the Constitutional Court [official websites, in Turkish]. Also included is an amendment to Article 15, which bans the prosecution of the 1980 coup leaders. The reform movement, led by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish], has been challenged by the opposition party Republican People's Party (CHP). The bill will now go before Parliament, where it must be approved by two-thirds of the 550 members to become law.
Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] announced [JURIST report] that the reform package with proposed constitutional changes would be submitted the EU by the end of March, following a meeting of the EU Reform Watch Group. The Watch Group, overseen by Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bagis [official profile], was created to guide Turkey's accession to the EU. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward membership in the EU, including its human rights record, its stance towards political parties, and tension [JURIST news archive] between the AKP and the military. Last year, the Constitutional Court of Turkey voted to ban [JURIST report] the Democratic Society Party (DTP) after finding the party had contacts with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a separatist, designated terrorist group. Erdogan has sought to end Turkey's 25-year conflict [BBC report] with the PKK, which has been a major impediment to Turkey's bid to join the EU.