Turkey's judicial reform in line with EU standards

While the EU warns Turkey over tampering with the judiciary in light of the graft case against government loyalists, Turkey has said that reforms will meet EU standards.

Turkey's judicial reform in line with EU standards

World Bulletin / News Desk

The proposal by Turkey's ruling party to reform the country's top judicial body meets international standards for joining the European Union, a senior Turkish official said Monday.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish minister for EU affairs, was responding to concerns raised by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, who said last week that "any change to the judicial system must not call into question Turkey’s commitment regarding the Copenhagen political criteria." The Copenhagen criteria are rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the EU.

Cavusoglu said Monday in an interview with the private TV channel Kanal A that the European Union needs to compare the proposed bill with the practices applied in its member states. The ruling AK Party's proposal to reform the country's Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors meets those standards, he said.

A commission at the Turkish parliament approved last week the bill that proposes transferring some of the powers of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to its chair, the justice minister.

The bill comes in the wake of a controversial anti-graft probe which led to the arrest of the sons of two ministers. A major cabinet reshuffle followed, partly to deal with the crisis and in part to replace several ministers nominated for mayor in local elections in March.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the anti-graft probe launched on December 17 was an "intense campaign of smear and disinformation" targeting the Turkish government both at home and abroad.

The ruling AK Party asserts that the judiciary is under the influence of an illegal formation which it calls a "state within the state" and accuses it of plotting against the government.

Erdogan has said that the probe was an "act of revenge" for the government's "firm stance" on Egypt, "principled foreign policy" in Iran and Iraq, "humanitarian concerns" in Syria, and "conscientious rejection" in Palestine.

Relations with EU

On Monday, Cavusoglu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Brussels to discuss Turkey's effort to join the EU.

Turkey-EU relations gained momentum in 2013, he said, with the EU warming toward Turkey's accession, he said. He said the EU's annual progress report on Turkey was more objective and constructive than in previous years.

"We need to maintain this positive atmosphere obtained in 2013," he said. "Both sides will have obligations and responsibilities to do so."

Citing Erdogan, he said that 2014 would the year of Europe.

Cavusoglu said he and Erdogan would make their expectations clear to EU officials and work to overcome sticking points. Only 14 so-called negotiating chapters have been opened in Turkey's EU bid while 16 chapters remain blocked, due in part to the ongoing dispute Cyprus.

The island has been divided into Greek and Turkish sides since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish peace mission to aid persecuted Turkish Cypriots on the island.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Ocak 2014, 13:25