Turkish prime minister says to Europe's top human rights organisation that EU human rights agreements will be main reference of country's new constitution
European human rights agreements will form the basis of Turkey's new constitution, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday.
Davutoglu made the comment in response to a question at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe's leading human rights organisation which brings together 47 states.
Last week the European Parliament approved its annual "progress report" on Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, that criticised Ankara's record on rights and press freedom.
Turkey strongly rejected the criticism and described the report as "unacceptable."
Davutoglu's long-governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is pushing for a new constitution to replace the existing charter, which dates back to the 1980s.
Turkey's present 1982 constitution, which has strengthened the position of the military in governance, came in effect after the army overthrew the elected government by a military coup on September 12, 1980.
Davutoglu has also touched upon on the EU-Turkey refugee deal which is another important issue for the country during his speech at the Parliamentary Assembly.
"Turkey has fulfilled all its commitments under the deal. All the provisions we agreed on in the EU-Turkey deal have been put into effect... There is no pending issues. In fact we, Turkey, can talk about some pending issues," he told parliamentarians.
Under the deal, Ankara gets more EU funding for refugees living on its soil, revival of long-stalled EU accession talks and quicker visa liberalisation. The EU on Tuesday disbursed another 110 million euros for refugees in Turkey, bringing the total to 187 million so far of a planned 3 billion.
In exchange, Turkey is due to prevent migrants and refugees from departing from its shores for Europe via illegal routes and take back all who reach the 28-nation bloc that way.
But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Turkey would no longer need to honour the accord if the EU failed to ease visa requirements by June.
"As part of the agreement, we are working towards visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. Turkey must fulfil all remaining conditions," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday.
"Visa liberalisation is a matter of criteria. The criteria will not be watered down in the case of Turkey," he added.
More than 1.1 million refugees and migrants reached the EU last year, mostly via Greece from Turkey. But daily arrivals have fallen sharply since the Ankara-Brussels deal.
Brussels has claimed that Turkey fully meets only 19 out of 72 criteria for visa liberalisation.
However, Davutoglu said on Monday that only seventeen of the visa waiver requirements remained to be completed and expected that to happen by May.