EU politician urges Ankara to revisit security bill

A leading EU politician called on the Turkish government to revisit a controversial internal security bill that grants law enforcement officers enormous power at the expense of individual liberties, with a sharp warning that the balance between security measures and freedoms is in serious jeopardy. Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, who was in Ankara for several days to hold high-level talks with Turkish authorities, offere

A leading EU politician called on the Turkish government to revisit a controversial internal security bill that grants law enforcement officers enormous power at the expense of individual liberties, with a sharp warning that the balance between security measures and freedoms is in serious jeopardy.

Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, who was in Ankara for several days to hold high-level talks with Turkish authorities, offered a bleak assessment about the state of democracy in Turkey.

Accompanied by a large EU delegation, he paid visits to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand#39 Democratic Party (HDP) and to the main opposition Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP) after holding meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu and Parliament Speaker Cemil andCcediliandccedilek.

andquotTurkey has taken great moves in the economic field over the past 10 years. But we see problems in freedom of expression and media freedom We asked questions [to our Turkish counterparts] regarding these matters,andquot Brok said.

The delegation stressed the fact that the balance between security measures and liberties is on a knife-edge due to pressure created by violent, terrorists acts [in Turkey in the recent past]. In remarks made to local media outlet Ankaraand#39nIn Sesi (Ankaraand#39s Voice), Brok said the EU delegation urged the Turkish government to revisit the security bill to take individual liberties into account.

The bill proposes that anyone who takes part in public demonstrations or rallies with their faces partly or totally covered to conceal their identity could face sentences of between two-and-a-half to four years in prison. It also gives police officers the authority to detain anyone on the street considered to be a public disturbance, or a threat to security or private property.

When asked about the prospect of Turkeyand#39s EU membership, Brok placed emphasis on the negotiation chapters about justice and democracy, subjects of particular importance for Brussels. andquotEveryone [candidate] must complete the negotiation process and meet the criteria We, especially, hope for the opening of the justice and democracy chapters [to assess the progress Turkey has or hasnand#39t made].

andquot Brok said common concerns shared by Turkey and the EU were the chief motive for the delegationand#39s visit to Ankara, which sought to hammer out coordinated responses to those challenges.

andldquoWe want closer cooperation between Turkey and EU.

Turkey shares our view. We, therefore, want to update and deepen our cooperation [with Turkey] regarding the Customs Union,andrdquo he said.

andldquoWe will contemplate which chapters we could open during the EU negotiation process and will seek ways to develop our defense and external security policies.andrdquo The 17th chapter — on economic and monetary policies — is also on the delegationand#39s agenda, but the current state of relations makes any prospect of opening the chapter dim

As the Armenian diaspora has intensified its efforts to commemorate the centennial of the andldquoArmenian genocideandrdquo at international level, the ensuing debate around Turkeyand#39s standing over the events of 1915 have once again been thrown into the media spotlight.

Brok said he welcomed remarks made by ErdoIan and DavutoIlu last year regarding the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, viewing Ankaraand#39s statement at the time as a historic step towards normalizing ties between Turkey and Armenia andquotWe hope that the 2009 protocols between Turkey and Armenia will continue and be put into practice. That would be a critical step in leaving these tragic events behind,andquot Brok said.

andldquoIt is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner It is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren,andrdquo said a statement from then-Prime Minister ErdoIanand#39s office in 2014. The statement, which came on the eve of the 99th anniversary since the start of the events of 1915, was issued by the Prime Ministerand#39s office on Wednesday in nine languages — Turkish, German, French, English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, West Armenian and East Armenian — in an attempt to make sure the statement is widely heard and understood.

andldquoRegardless of their ethnic or religious origins, we pay tribute, with compassion and respect, to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the same period and under similar conditions,andrdquo ErdoIan said in the year-old statement.

Brok said the ongoing settlement process aimed at producing a lasting solution to the decades-old Kurdish question in Turkey is also among the topics he discussed with DavutoIlu in this weekand#39s meeting.

He stressed the importance of political efforts to find a peaceful solution to the contentious issue.

Sharing his views on the meeting between Turkish and EU diplomats, RIza Tanduumlrmen, a former diplomat and a CHP deputy, said EU politicians usually exercise self-restraint when they criticize anti-democratic developments in Turkey, with the knowledge that any sort of public criticism would play into the hands of the anti-Turkish camp in Europe.

andldquoEuropean diplomats offer balanced statements and refrain from harsh criticism of the Turkish government publicly, while they express their dismay over the poor record of the government on the reform process behind closed doors,andrdquo Tanduumlrmen told Todayand#39s Zaman on Friday.

Addressing the abysmal state of Turkeyand#39s credentials abroad, Tanduumlrmen said recent reversals in Turkish democracy and the erosion of freedoms hog the debate during joint meetings between Turkish and EU officials, while most of the international media clings to the conviction that a creeping authoritarianism is firmly taking root in Turkish politics.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman