EU calls on Turkey to address corruption claims with impartiality

EU calls on Turkey to address corruption claims with impartiality

The European Union has called on Turkey "to take all necessary measures to ensure that recent allegations of corruption are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner", Today's Zaman reported.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle met with Turkey's EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday in Strasbourg. According to a European Commission press release, Füle said that "as a candidate country committed to the political criteria of EU accession, the 28-member bloc expects the Turkish government to take steps for the impartiality of the probe."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed EU officials over their statements on Turkey's judicial process while addressing Turkish ambassadors at the sixth annual Ambassadors Conference. He said that because there is no established system in EU countries similar to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), it is not appropriate for the EU to comment on the proposed restructuring.

"For example, in EU countries ... Although there is no established system like the HSYK ... Although every country has been making its own regulations, commenting on the Turkey's HSYK amendment is not their right," Erdoğan said.

He said Turkey examined and had looked at the systems of Spain, Italy and Germany; however, it saw the efficiency of the elected ones on every issue.

"The findings like 'this is against the EU acquis' -- sorry, but -- cannot deceive us. We know how to read and write. We see what is going on," he said.

In his statement, Füle expressed the bloc's "expectation that any change to the judicial system must not call into question Turkey's commitment as regards the Copenhagen political criteria."

"Commissioner Füle asked Minister Çavuşoglu to convey this message to Ankara," the statement said.

The EU and the Council of Europe both earlier criticized the Turkish government's increasingly draconian measures amid the ongoing corruption scandal. Both criticized the Turkish government after the latter's announcement that it had proposed an bill to restructure the HSYK, which had already been overhauled by a hotly contested referendum in September 2010.

The EU has warned the Turkish government not to undermine the judiciary, and the Council of Europe issued a stern warning in which it argued that the government proposal to restructure the HSYK is a "serious setback."

Füle described the meeting with Çavuşoğlu in Strasbourg as "open and constructive."

"Commissioner Füle and Minister Çavuşoğlu agreed on the strategic ties that unite the EU and Turkey, the anchor of which are the accession negotiations," the press release said.

"Last year brought the momentum back to these negotiations. It is precisely because of the importance of our relations that we discussed openly our concerns as regards the independence and impartiality of the judiciary," the release quoted Füle as saying.

It added that the European Commission will review the latest draft bill on the judiciary in Turkey and share its views with Turkish authorities before Turkey votes on the bill.

Çavuşoğlu also met with the EP's Turkey rapporteur, Dutch Christian Democrat Ria Oomen-Ruijten, and Hannes Swoboda, president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, as part of his visit to Strasbourg in an effort to tell the Turkish government's side of the story on recent developments in the country.

'Turkish government must withdraw reactionary reforms to judicial system'

Green MEP and co-chair of the EP's Turkey delegation Hélène Flautre and Dany Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Greens/EFA group, issued a joint statement that said: "The unfolding events in Turkey are cause for concern. ... The reform project that is being discussed in the Turkish Parliament raises very serious concerns: if adopted, this bill would gravely undermine the independence of the judiciary. This would cancel the positive reforms undertaken by the government over the past 10 years, which we have consistently supported.

"This is a test for the Turkish democracy. While there is a need to reform the judicial system in Turkey to prevent its politicisation, these reforms must not be a reactionary response to a corruption scandal but based on democratic principles and broad consensus."

Flautre and Cohn-Bendit urged the Turkish government "to abstain from intervening in the ongoing corruption scandal. Instead, the Turkish government should only undertake reforms designed to ensure the independence of the judiciary, in close cooperation with the Council of Europe and the EU."

Hundreds of police officers have been reassigned or demoted since Dec. 17, when dozens of suspects -- including businessmen close to the government and the sons of three former ministers -- were detained in the corruption probe. The dismissals, coupled with the removal of the prosecutors who ordered the probe, have heightened worries in the EU about the erosion of judicial independence in Turkey, which began negotiations to join the bloc in 2005.

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