The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
THIS PRIZE BELONGS TO TURKEY
Turkish President Abdullah Gül received the Chatham House Prize 2010 from Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday for "making the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year."
Receiving his prize, President Gül said that he received it on behalf of "my dear country and the Turkish people." This prize crowned Turkey's growing democracy and achievements in its free market economy, Gül said.
EU'S REPORT CARD FOR TURKEY: FREEDOMS (POOR) ECONOMY (VERY GOOD)
The European Commission, in its progress report published Tuesday, harshly criticized Turkey for its declining freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of religion.
The report said that "4,091 lawsuits were filed against journalists, and journalists were under the pressure of self-censorship."
On the Turkish economy, the EU found: "GDP per capita in Turkey reached 46% of the EU average. It recovered from the crisis with a 2% growth in H2 of 2009 and an 11% growth in H1 of 2010."
The EU Commission reiterated its call for a new constitution in the report.
TURKEY'S EU ACCESSION PROCESS LOSING MOMENTUM, SAYS EU ENLARGEMENT CHIEF
Europe's enlargement commissioner on Tuesday praised Turkey's reform process, especially the recent government-led constitutional amendments, but said he was dissatisfied with the pace of negotiations.
"Turkey has continued its political reform process, in particular through the reform of its Constitution. But no one can be satisfied with the current pace of negotiations," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said at a news conference that was aired live at the EU Delegation to Turkey in Ankara.
The EU Commission on Tuesday officially announced its annual progress reports on candidate and potential candidate countries, including Turkey.
In its report, the commission concluded that Turkey had made progress in meeting EU membership criteria, in particular through the reform of its Constitution. But further results are needed as regards fundamental rights, in particular to ensure freedom of expression.
The report also noted that accession negotiations had advanced albeit slowly. If Turkey proceeds to full implementation of its Customs Union obligations with the EU, and makes progress toward normalizing relations with Greek Cyprus, the report predicted that Turkey would be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations.
"Despite overall progress in 2009, we are concerned that Turkey's accession process is losing its momentum," Fuele said. "The key to changing this is primarily with Turkey, which is expected to fully implement its current contractual relations with the EU — the Customs Union — before it can gear up to full membership of the Union."
The EU report said Turkey still had not complied with its obligation of full non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement. "There is no progress towards normalization of bilateral relations with [Greek Cyprus]," it added.
But the commission did not propose any sanctions for Turkey's failure to meet its commitment to open ports and airports to Greek Cyprus.
Report cites 'pressure on media'
The report highlighted that significant efforts were still needed on fundamental rights.
"Journalists repeatedly face prosecutions and convictions, and pressure on the media undermines freedom of the press in practice," it said.
The document acknowledged that the package of constitutional amendments approved in a referendum on Sept. 12 created the conditions for progress in a number of areas, such as the judiciary and fundamental rights and public administration, but stated that "implementation of the constitutional amendments in a transparent and inclusive way is key."
Regarding cultural rights, it said non-Muslim religious communities and the Alevi community continued to face undue constraints, adding that the "democratic opening" aimed primarily at addressing the Kurdish issue had produced only limited results.
A probe into the so-called Ergenekon case — in which dozens of figures stand accused of involvement of an ultranationalist gang that allegedly planned to topple the government by staging a coup after spreading chaos — strengthened confidence in Turkey's democracy, the commission said. But it added: "Senior members of the armed forces have continued to make statements beyond their remit."
Since 2005, Turkey has only succeeded in opening 13 of 35 chapters that need to be negotiated, and closed one, with 18 others blocked either by the EU as a whole, by Greek Cyprus, or by France.
A further three are due to be opened, including one this year.
PROPOSAL ON TURKISH MILITARY REQUIRES WHOLESALE CHANGES, SAY EXPERTS
The Turkish government is set to propose contracts for privates in the military, but experts say the timing is not right and the system is not ready.
"It is an ideal model, but it doesn't work unless the mentality in the military changes," Sedat Laçiner, president of Ankara-based think tank International Strategic Research Organization, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
According to the government plan recently announced by Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, soldiers who complete their mandatory military service will be able to remain in the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] as private soldiers under contract and receive salaries.
Gönül said the model was a first step toward instituting a professional military in the country.
The system would allow the military to work with those who proved to be successful over more than three years in the military, while also giving the latter the chance to annul the contract if necessary, Laçiner said.
Furthermore, the proposed model would also contribute to solving unemployment, as the soldiers in question would be those whose employment is relatively difficult because of their lower education level, he said.
"But first the mentality should change in the military, which is not professional. It is very clumsy, bureaucratic and puts itself at the center of politics. It is a system that aims to please the commanders," Laçiner said.
"So if the contracted soldiers are utilized under the current system, it doesn't work. So, Turkey actually needs a mentality change in the military. The problem is not the scarcity of military personnel, but the way they are utilized," he said.
Under the proposal, privates offered contracts would be deployed in combat wherever needed, with priority given to the fight on terrorism. As for the application criteria, having an elementary school diploma would be enough for soldiers to be hired by the TSK.
The minimum salary has been set at 1,500 Turkish Liras, with additional wages to be given during and after operations, bringing the salary up to 2,000 liras. The privates would also receive an additional bonus check once their contract ends. The minimum contract duration would be three years, which would come with social security benefits.
In addition to around 500,000 soldiers partaking in mandatory military service, the military has around 260,000 soldiers who receive a salary, an amount that is larger than the militaries of either the United Kingdom or France, Laçiner said.
Retired Maj. Gen. Armağan Kuloğlu said the contracted privates could be effective in positions that need experience and continuation in the military.
"But, it can't be seen as a transition to the professional army as it is not in accordance with the structure of the Turkish Republic," Kuloğlu said. "Moreover, the layers within the military are increasing. Having the privates under contract assume a different and new status should be avoided."
Erdal Sipahi of the Nationalist Movement Party said that while discussions were ongoing on other options including the paid military system, such a proposal, which is likely to be a surprising idea to the TSK itself, may confuse people.
He said the details were not clear enough yet to make a further comment.