Kaleağası: Article 301 poisons Turkey-EU ties

Turkey's leading business club's Brussels delegate said the new government should immediately act on amending the penal code to change Article 301, used to prosecute writers and journalists for insulting Turkishness, before the European Commission presen

Kaleağası: Article 301 poisons Turkey-EU ties
Turkey's leading business club's Brussels delegate said the new government should immediately act on amending the penal code to change Article 301, used to prosecute writers and journalists for insulting Turkishness, before the European Commission presents its country progress report in November.


TUSİAD Brussels representative Bahadır Kaleağası says the new Turkish government should immediately act on amending the penal code to change article 301.

Bahadır Kaleağası, Brussels representative for the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) said changing the notorious Article 301 should be a priority for the government.In İstanbul for meetings, Kaleağası yesterday added: "Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code harms Turkey in every way. The fanatic Armenian and Greek lobbies, the PKK [outlawed separatist terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party] lobbies and fundamentalist Christian groups of Europe that want to benefit from Turkey's weaknesses all gained by keeping the article intact. It poisons Turkey's relations with the EU."

In last year's country progress report, the commission strongly criticized Turkey for undermining its EU membership talks by slowing the pace of reform on human rights as it condemned Ankara for failing to amend Article 301 of its penal code. The legislation used to prosecute Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning author, for insulting Turkishness, along with many other writers and journalists for "expression of nonviolent opinion," as the commission put it.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated President Abdullah Gül after his election Tuesday, saying this "provides an opportunity to give fresh, immediate and positive impetus to the accession process to the European Union through progress in a number of key areas."

Turkey was made an official candidate to join the 27-nation bloc in October 2005 during Gül's tenure as foreign minister. But its long quest to join has been dogged by problems, in part due to its slow progress on democratic and judicial reforms.

After taking the presidential oath in Parliament Tuesday to become the country's 11th president, he told lawmakers: "It is imperative for our country that we carry out the political and economic reforms geared toward EU membership more resolutely. The political climate in Europe may always change."

Among the other areas of weaknesses that Kaleağası said the commission took note of are intolerance toward non-Muslims, tension between the military and the civilians, a perception that religious coverings of women seem to be criteria in bureaucracy appointments and Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's murder.

Asked by Today's Zaman if there have been complaints by the Turkish side to the commission regarding such appointments, he said: "Yes, there have been complaints. Before secularism was seen as restricting individual freedoms but now they ask if Turkey is going toward the opposite direction. There are questions whether or not Turkey will ever find the middle ground to solve this issue."

The author of "The Turkish Star in the European Galaxy," Kaleağası said the European Union is now watching the Turkish government to see how it will act on its words to protect secularism.

Nevertheless, the Western media still wrongly label the AK Party as "Islamist" and the government needs a serious communications strategy to get rid of that erroneous branding, Kaleağası said: "The label 'Islamist' has been strongly associated in Europe with a theocratic regime like that of Iran. As party officials have repeated several times, the AK Party is a conservative democratic party."

There are areas in which Turkey should make demands from the EU as well, Kaleağası said, stressing the visa problems that Turkish citizens face before visiting European Union countries, and said the Turkish government should develop a full strategy to further prevent insult to the Turkish Republic.

"The visa problem is a foreign policy problem. Turkish citizens have been insulted and so has the Turkish Republic. None of the governments have perceived the issue like that before, and they have not held meetings in European capitals to end that offense," he said. "There might be justified reasons for the application of visas, and we know that some people might be unwanted visitors in Europe, but a person who applied for a visa and passed all the procedures and was given a visa should be given a visa for a longer period of time -- like 10 years -- not for only a couple of weeks or for a few days -- the length of a conference that the person will attend."

Kaleağası also said the European Union should consult with Turkey in starting trade negotiations with third parties because the Turkish government has been in a customs union with the EU since 1995.

Today's Zaman
Last Mod: 30 Ağustos 2007, 15:39
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