[JURIST] The Turkish government will submit a European Union (EU) [official website] reform package with proposed constitutional changes to Parliament by the end of March, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish; JURIST news archive] said Sunday, following a meeting of the EU Reform Watch Group. The Watch Group, overseen by Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bag?s [official profile], was created to guide Turkeys accession to the EU [admission criteria]. Erdogan said that the amendments, necessary for continuing EU negotiations [TRT report], would focus on judicial reform. Other areas of potential reform include the formation of an ombudsman's office and the election system in Turkey [World Bulletin report], including political parties. Erdogan condemned opposition parties and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) [official website, in Turkish] for opposing a constitutional amendment, and said the government will seek a public referendum if an agreement for the constitutional amendments cannot be reached.
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 report] between Turkeys ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] and the military. In December, the Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] 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 Turkeys 25-year conflict [BBC report] with the PKK, which has been a major impediment to Turkey's bid to join the EU. In May, the EC-Turkey Association Council urged [JURIST report] Turkey to improve its human rights record. Last year, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addressed the Turkish parliament and applauded the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST reports] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.