Government to push for reforms before EU report

AK Party is now expected to speed up efforts to pass reforms requested by the European Union.

Government to push for reforms before EU report

After its landslide victory in the July 22 election, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is now expected to speed up efforts to pass reforms requested by the European Union as part of its membership drive, government sources have said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already instructed legal experts from his party to prepare a new reform package, which will be the 10th one designed to gradually bring Turkey's laws closer to EU standards. The package is expected to be passed in Parliament in autumn, before the European Commission releases an annual progress report on candidate Turkey's reform efforts. If passed, the package is likely to soften the critical tone in the report, which is expected to underline a slowing down in the reform process during the pre-election period. The progress report is expected to be released in late October or early November. The renewed reform effort also comes amid concerns that the election of conservative politician Sarkozy as French president could deal a blow to Turkey's membership prospects.

Sarkozy says Turkey has no place in the EU and proposes instead a "Mediterranean Union." The government hopes the new reform package would weaken the position of the Turco-skeptics within the EU.

The EU is calling on Turkey to pass a law on the creation of an ombudsman mechanism, expand property rights for minority foundations, revise a law on public auditing and change or annul Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which critics say restricts freedom of expression.

The EU requests are expected to be brought onto the parliamentary agenda following a critical vote for the next president of Turkey. Parliament, opening today, is expected to vote for a new president by Sept. 15. Under normal circumstances it would go into recess until the official opening of a new legislative year on Oct. 1, but given the urgency of the EU reforms, officials say Parliament is unlikely to give any break.

Parliament has already passed a law on foundations, lifting some of the restrictions on property rights of minority foundations. But the legislation has been partially vetoed by acting President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Government officials say a fresh bid to pass the law is unlikely to succeed before Sezer is replaced by a successor. Similarly, a law on the creation of an ombudsman was also vetoed by Sezer, who said it was against the constitution.

These two laws are now expected to be debated once again in the new Parliament. But this is unlikely to happen before a new president is elected, since Sezer would probably take them to the Constitutional Court for annulment.

Article 301 back on agenda

Abolishment of the infamous TCK Article 301 -- which makes it a criminal offense to denigrate "Turkishness" and is widely considered as a barrier against freedom of expression in Turkey -- is not on the government's agenda.

Yet the government, at the same time, has proposed to make certain changes in the article under which many intellectuals, including slain journalist Hrant Dink and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, were also charged. AK Party seniors believe the problems concerning Article 301 do not stem from the actual content of the article, but rather from faulty interpretation.

Last year, upon Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's request, civil society organizations prepared a draft regarding Article 301. Organizations, including leading businesses and labor unions, then agreed to modify abstract elements in the article, making them more clear and closed to different interpretations.

The participants also commented that the expression of "Turkishness," as in the present form of the law, should be replaced with either "Turkish nation" or "the state of the Republic of Turkey," given that the article in effect, which penalizes insulting "Turkishness," is not consistent with general legal principles regarding the clarity of the crimes concerned.

Court of Accounts: The most problematic issue

A bill concerning the Court of Accounts relating to the auditing of military spending, will be the most challenging reform to make for the AK Party, which many analysts describe as being at odds with the military. During the last government's term the bill was not sent to Parliament from the related parliamentary commission in order not to escalate the already existing tension between the government and the military. The bill is considered the first step toward limiting the military's interference in the political sphere as the bill will undoubtedly strengthen civilian control over military spending.



Source: Today's zaman


Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Ağustos 2007, 11:20