There is a proposal in the road map submitted to the EU Commission for the provision, “Thoughts that do not exceed the bounds of news reporting and are voiced for the purpose of criticism do not constitute an offence” to be appended to the Anti-Terrorism Law.
Ankara, in a bid to surmount the huge strain it is experiencing in its relations with the EU due to the detaining of a large number of journalists and government opponents, has submitted a seven-point road map that it has kept waiting for more than one year. Ankara, stating that it may append the provision, “Thoughts that do not exceed the bounds of news reporting and are voiced for the purpose of criticism do not constitute an offence” to the Anti-Terrorism Law, has officially announced that it will carry into effect the Readmission Agreement signed in December 2013 with the EU in return for visa liberalisation.
Ankara, which has complied with 65 of the 72 criteria needed to exempt Turkish citizens from visas and has for a long time been dragging its feet over the remaining seven criteria, has set forward the steps it may take in the form of a “working paper”. EU Permanent Delegate Faruk Kaymakçı passed on Turkey’s position on the seven critical steps that it has stated it may make to EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans in Strasbourg. The EU will now assess this road map and give a reply to Ankara. President Tayyip Erdoğan will convene on 26 March in Varna with EU Council President Donald Tusk, EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime-Minister Boyko Borisov.
The goal set in the road map Turkey has submitted is for the making of appropriate regulations on direct journalistic activity that has for a long time given rise to detentions and convictions.
Cumhuriyet has obtained details of this road map over which Ankara has been dragging its feet for a long time.
The seven steps that Ankara has stated it will take:
1- A provision will now be added to the Anti-Terrorism Law that is in the Turkish Penal Code, i.e. is actually in Turkey’s laws, but is not applied in the Anti-Terrorism Law. Through the envisaged regulation: “Thoughts that do not exceed the bounds of news reporting and are voiced for the purpose of criticism do not constitute an offence” will be included in Turkey’s Anti-Terrorism Law.
2- Turkey noted that the provision under which the Readmission Agreement will be implemented in terms of all its articles can be applied at the final stage, that is when mutual visa liberalisation has been brought about. It has been pointed out that Turkey has effectively applied the Readmission Agreement since 18 March 2016 under the agreement made with Greece.
3- Turkey will announce that it will gradually issue biometric passports as of 2 April
4- Steps will be taken towards compliance with GRECO. It was noted that, in this context, provisions on ethics will be made in the Political Parties law that is waiting before parliament. Within the GRECO framework, Turkey needs to make regulations covering anti-corruption and bribery.
5- Turkey has officially notified that it is ready to start negotiations to cooperate with EUROPOL. Had Turkey submitted this road map prior to 1 May 2017, the cooperation agreement with EUROPOL could have been facilitated far more easily. However, the EU has changed the rules and this can no longer be facilitated through officials’ signatures and all EU members must approve this agreement. These negotiations are expected to last for more than one year.
6- Turkey enacted a personal data protection law in 2016 in the bid for visa liberalisation, but it was deemed inadequate by the EU. Turkey, having vowed to make fresh statutory provisions, has undertaken, stating that it will readdress the exceptional provisions in Articles 6, 19 and 28, to strengthen the institution’s independence in a regulation to be made in the statute.
7- Turkey had noted that it did not recognise the Greek Cypriot Sector. With Ankara declaring its readiness to cooperate with EU members in judicial matters, it left the process of finding of a formula with regard to the Greek Cypriot Sector to the Commission. Germany had previously notified that it could delegate on behalf of the Greek Cypriots.
EU Minister Çelik: Work completed
EU Minister Ömer Çelik, convening with the members of Parliamentary EU Harmonisation Commission, commented that work in relation to visas had been completed. Çelik said, “We have completed the work in relation to visas. This work will be submitted to the commission today or tomorrow. Turkey has fulfilled all the obligations incumbent on it. From our point of view, the 72 criteria have also all been complied with.” Regarding Turkey-EU relations, Çelik imparted the information, “On 26 March, there will be a summit between Turkey and the EU at Varna at the initiative of Bulgaria’s rotating presidency. It will be a summit at which Turkey-EU issues will be addressed and then into the question of how we can take them forward.”
Reaction to Ankara from Washington
The US administration has announced that it is “deeply troubled” by the rearrest of Amnesty International's Turkey Branch Executive Board Director Taner Kılıç. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert pointed out in the press briefing she made the day before yesterday that Kılıç had been under pretrial arrest since June. Nauert said they were closely following his case along with those against other human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders and opposition politicians. She stated that the ongoing prosecutions under the state of emergency of these people had chilled freedom of expression and raised serious concerns about respect for judicial independence and the due process protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution. The US spokesperson stressed, “We call on the Turkish Government to end the protracted state of emergency, to release those detained arbitrarily under the emergency authorities, and to safeguard the rule of law consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments.”
Double criticism in the European Parliament
A joint session was held at the General Assembly of the European Parliament devoted to “Human Rights in Turkey” and the “Situation in Afrin.”
According to a report by DW Turkish, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, commented in addressing the session, “Opening new fronts is not the solution and I fear that it will not make Turkey more secure. True security can only come from a negotiated political solution. We believe that military operations should focus purely on organisations on the United Nations’ terrorist list.” Mogherini said that the non-implementation of the Constitutional Court’s rulings on Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay raised question marks over the independence of the judiciary and the continued implementation of the state of emergency “remains a cause for concern.”
Kati Piri, the Netherlands parliamentarian who serves as rapporteur on Turkey, in turn, called out to the imprisoned Osman Kavala, Ahmet Şık and Selahattin Demirtaş, “We have not forgotten you.”
A bill is expected to be brought to the vote in the parliament in the afternoon. In the text of the bill, in which the expression “very troubling” appears with reference to fundamental rights and freedoms and the supremacy of the law in Turkey, “arbitrary detentions” are condemned.