Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oymen at the European Parliament

EU Parliament Turkey Rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruitjen
PHOTO from Today's Zaman

CHP deputy chairman Onur Oymen, speaking to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee at the European Parliament this week, criticized European politicians for only reading one newspaper, namely Today's Zaman (though the paper was not mentioned by name). The pro-government/moderate Islamist-oriented daily reports:
At the 63rd meeting of the JPC held in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, several CHP deputies attacked the Today's Zaman and Zaman dailies. Accusing the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, of only reading certain newspapers, Öymen called on European deputies “to learn about the tendency and orientation of such media.”

Another CHP deputy, Osman Coşkunoğlu, claimed the sales figures of Zaman were very low but its circulation was high as it was handed out for free. Coşkunoğlu made this remark while referring to Zaman’s Monday headline in which Dutch Christian Democrat Ruijten called for an overhaul of the judiciary. Coşkunoğlu also told Today’s Zaman that he did not explicitly name any newspaper.

The claims came amid discussions in the European Parliament about freedom of the press in Turkey. Addressing the JPC meeting, Öymen said: “Do not limit yourself to the information of some media. You read some English daily newspapers, but please try to learn about the tendency and orientation of such media.”

Öymen insisted that he did not name any specific media outlet, but when asked, everybody in the room understood that he was referring to Today’s Zaman. He said he could not prevent people from having certain opinions.

Öymen was apparently not happy about the inclusion of a Today’s Zaman article in a JPC file. The article was presented to members of Parliament and Turkish deputies together with 17 documents before the meeting. The article, titled “Turkey wants full visa immunity from EU, not ease in requirements” and published in the Feb. 4 edition of Today’s Zaman, called for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens between Turkey and Europe.
Also potentially getting under Oymen's skin were comments from Oomen-Ruijten that Turkey desperately needed a new constitution and judicial reform, European arguments for which the ruling AKP is likely to now use to, in CHP's eyes, advance judicial reform for its own purposes, i.e. to save itself from potential closure.
Complaining of delays in the implementation of judicial reform prepared by the government, Oomen-Ruijten said there is some thing going on within the judiciary as a result of this lack of neutrality. “In effect, the Turkish Parliament must create such a legal ground that the judicial rulings will not be debated. For this, a new constitution is needed; we want this. If regulations are sufficiently open and clear, then the judiciary will behave neutrally and decisions the judiciary announces will not be debated,” she said.

She also asked the opposition not to hinder the process of judicial reform. “Please lean towards the judicial reform because Turkey can only be a country with the rule of law through judicial reform,” Oomen-Ruijten said, adding that there are also circles in Turkey who want to postpone the judicial reform and claim that Turkey is not yet ready for it.

“There isn't enough dialogue within society. I do not think this is the government's problem. There are many other responsibilities for the opposition, too. If you really want to join the EU, you need to be a modern welfare state. The Copenhagen criteria are the basis of European cooperation. You cannot become a member if you do not respect this and fulfill the criteria,” she noted.

Harshly reacting to Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy chairman Onur Öymen's remark that the government did not adopt any law on advice of the army, Oomen-Ruijten said this would be turning the world the other way around. “You have to check and control the army, not have the army check Parliament,” the rapporteur said.
To some degree, the AKP has set itself up for CHP's criticisms since it also has stalled on judicial and political parties reform. As was the case following the presidential crisis in 2007, the AKP tends to respond most strongly to EU reform criteria when the party faces difficult circumstances. During the DTP closure case, there were few mentions of reform to the Law on Political Parties or judiciary. Also speaking on Tuesday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin promised Turkey would be moving quickly forward with judicial reform.

UPDATE I (2/25) -- Hurriyet Daily News has run comments Oomen-Ruijten made in an interview with the paper in the past few hours.
"What I would like to see is a real oversight and a real control of the public sector on the military. That means Parliament and the government are the ones who need to have the control," said Oomen-Ruijten.

“The military should be under the control of society, not the society by the military. If they can now make good arrangements, then everybody will be happy,” the politician added, urging the creation of a new Constitution including reforms in the judicial area as well as in the civil-military relationship. Such reforms, she said, would address part of the Copenhagen criteria, which Turkey must comply with in order to receive full membership in the European Union.

“If you want to modernize and make your country a harmonious society, you need to have new rules and these new rules need to be laid down in a Constitution,” Oomen-Ruijten said. “The oversight of Parliament on the military and judicial reforms are urgently needed, absolutely."
More for Oymen and the CHP to groan about to be sure. For a take on the CHP's ambivalent relationship with the EU, see Feb. 11, 2009 post.

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