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Speech, Rauf Engin Soysal, SIGMA, Paris, 4 December 2015


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Speech by Rauf Engin Soysal, Undersecretary of the Ministry for EU Affairs of Turkey, made at the regional conference on Public Administration Reform Challenges in Western Balkan Countries held at the OECD in Paris, 4 December 2015.

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Speech, Rauf Engin Soysal, SIGMA, Paris, 4 December 2015

  1. 1. 2 Rue André Pascal 75775 Paris Cedex 16 France Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 82 00 Fax: +33 (0) 1 45 24 13 05 This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. It should not be reported as representing the official views of the EU, the OECD or its member countries, or of beneficiaries participating in the SIGMA Programme. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the author(s). This document and any map included herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Speech by Ambassador Rauf Engin Soysal Undersecretary of the Ministry for EU Affairs of Turkey « The Turkish experience of public administration reform » Regional ministerial conference on public administration reform challenges in Western Balkan countries Paris, France 4 December 2015
  2. 2. 2 Madame la Secrétaire Générale adjointe, Honorables Ministres, Mesdames et Messieurs, Dear Ms Deputy Secretary-General, honourable ministers and distinguished guests, I would like to begin by expressing my sincere condolences to the people of France. Dear guests, It is a great pleasure to be here, at this conference. This is an opportunity to share our national experiences regarding public administration reform and find common grounds to cooperate in order to overcome the future challenges. Public administration is where you can actually touch citizens’ lives and make a difference. This explains why our government attaches the utmost importance to the quality of public administration. I am more than pleased and honoured to say that Turkey has achieved a lot in this area, particularly in the last years. Nevertheless, the history of administrative reform in Turkey goes back to the end of the 18th century. It has always been a vital part of Turkey’s modernisation process during the Ottoman time as well as in the Republican period. Turkey has always strived to improve its public administration in line with the needs of the society and internal and external developments. Yet, public administration reform process was accelerated when Turkey received the EU candidate status in 1999. From the outset of our EU accession process, public administration reform has always been a top priority in our reform agenda. Since public administration reform became one of the three pillars of the 2014-2015 EU Enlargement Strategy, alongside rule of law and economic governance, its urgency is more pressing now more than ever given our EU membership aspirations. Public administration in Turkey has one main principle: “State is there for the citizens”. With this principle, we adopted an innovative and participatory approach with human dignity and right to good governance at its core. What we aim is to have an administration that can match Turkey’s continuous economic development, respond to the demands of our people and help our country to have a competitive edge in the global arena. We know that successful results could only be achieved from a holistic perspective. From bureaucratic procedures to the organization of local administrations, from financial control to the efficient use of human
  3. 3. 3 resources; all major reforms have been instituted in harmony in almost every area of our public administration. Ladies and gentlemen, Let me very briefly explain some steps taken over the past years to improve the quality of public administration in Turkey. Turkish public administration reform has been constructed on two pillars. First pillar is the restructuring of the public administration in the light of the principles of transparency, accountability and effectiveness. In this respect, local administration reform was initiated in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, with “citizen participation” at its core. “Chapter 22 – Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments” was the latest chapter we have opened to negotiations. This chapter necessitates close dialogue of the central administration with regional and local actors. In the last years, Turkish Government has made legal reforms empowering the elected local authorities in the decision-making processes. These legal changes without doubt reflect a shift in the decision-making mentality; a bottom-up approach is favoured over a top-down process. Our government has been extending power and competences of local authorities with a citizen-oriented insight, in line with the subsidiarity principle. The second pillar of the reforms aims to build a “citizen-oriented public administration” by improving governance with a greater focus on the needs of citizens. Just to name a few examples, e-government gateway was launched in 2008 to digitalize public services. Today there are nearly 20 million registered users and more than 1000 services are provided online on this portal. Moreover, the Regulation on the delivery of public services was put into force obliging public institutions to have certain service standards and work in compliance with them. Dear Guests, Public administration reform is not an easy task. Turkey has achieved a lot in this field in the last years. As you know, 2015 Progress Report on Turkey was published on 10th of November. We are very pleased to see the positive comments of the Commission acknowledging Turkey’s strong public service and administrative capacity, meritocratic recruitments and promotions in bureaucracy, clearly defined lines of accountability, overall fiscal discipline and commitment to establishing a user-oriented administration.
  4. 4. 4 However we are also very well aware of the fact that there is still room for improvement. Public administration reform is considered a key reform area in the programme of 64th Government which was announced last week. The new Government Programme foresees an ambitious reform agenda for the next four years. Our focus in the coming years will be on accelerating the reforms and improving good governance through strengthening transparency, accountability and responsiveness of our public administration system. “National Action Plan for the EU Accession” which foresees activities in each negotiation chapter to enhance the administrative capacity will also be implemented meticulously. The adoption of the EU Acquis is important. But effective implementation of the Acquis is equally important. A well-functioning, transparent and accountable public administration with solid governance mechanisms is the key to implement the legislation effectively. In the coming period, one of the deputy prime ministers will be also responsible for coordinating Turkey’s reform efforts. A reform task force is going to be established under his coordination to keep the reform process on track. In addition, a “Good Governance Monitoring and Coordination Group” will be constituted to conduct research and analysis on public institutions’ systems and processes. This body will report their suggestions directly to the Prime Ministry. The new Government Programme also emphasizes the importance of reforming the relations between central administration and local governments in line with European Charter of Local Self-Government. We aim to establish a smaller yet more effective central administration and strong and accountable local administrations, supported with a more efficient and transparent financial management system, effective human resources regime and digitalized public services. Following the successful implementation of this comprehensive reform agenda, our public administration will be strong and dynamic enough to have the capacity to adapt to any changing condition. Another major reform step that our Government plans to take is modernising the Law on Civil Servants to reinforce Turkey’s public administration system. It is vital to revise this law dating back to 1965 in order to increase productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of the Turkish administrative system. Last but not least, I also would like to mention our political reform platform, “Reform Action Group” (RAG) composed of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry
  5. 5. 5 of Interior and Ministry for EU Affairs. This body is designed to take on an active role in the whole cycle of reform agenda contributing in preparation, adoption and implementation phases. The next meeting of the RAG will be held under Prime Minister’s presidency in Ankara on December 8, 2015. Dear distinguished guests, Before concluding my speech I would like to make some further comments on the importance of reinforcing Turkey’s accession process at a critical time for the European Project. At the “Turkey-EU Summit” held in Brussels last Sunday, Turkey and the EU agreed that the accession process needs to be re-energized. They are committed to carry further their existing ties and solidarity and adopt result-oriented action to prepare their common future. They are determined to confront and surmount the existing risks and threats in a concerted manner to reinforce the European Project. The period ahead is critical for the European Project. After going through nearly ten years of multiple crises, “migration issue” is the most important issue that Europe faces today. Turkey has actually been facing this heavy humanitarian burden since the beginning of the Syrian crisis back in 2011. We have mobilized all our resources and capabilities to meet the needs of these people on behalf of the international community. The positive impact of our public administration reforms has been clearly revealed with Turkey’s immaculate performance in responding this humanitarian crisis. Newly established institutions such as Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) or Directorate General for Migration Management have played significant role in with their effective, well-coordinated and human-centred efforts. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the European Commission and OECD SIGMA for organizing this conference. Last year, our Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Volkan BOZKIR, presented the implementation of Turkish public administration reform at "Reinforcing Public Administration Reform in the Enlargement Process” Conference in Brussels. Such platforms for knowledge and experience exchange are welcomed by Turkey. I would like to underline that we are always ready to share our experience in this field with other candidate and potential candidate countries. Turkey fully supports the EU membership of Western Balkan countries and we will be happy to work in cooperation with you. Thank you.