Turkiets konstitutionella utmaning2007-10-03

I Turkiets förbereds en ny konstitution och den turkiska militären utsätter regeringen för nya, oblyga hot.

Om några veckor kommer EU-kommissionens rapport om Turikets ev framsteg när det gäller att leva upp till de krav som EU ställer för ett ev kommande medlemskap.

En nyckelfråga är den omdiskuterade paragraf 301 som använts för att väcka åtal mot hundratals journalister och skribenter som anklagas för att "förolämpa turkiskheten". Den måste bort.

När den turkiska regeringen senare i höst presenterar ett förslag till ny konstitution kommer därför - förhoppningsvis - inte den ökända paragraf 301 att finnas med.

Men regeringen utsätts för nya hot och påtryckningar, rapporterar Turkish Daily News:

" Turkey's powerful military has warned the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government not to take the fast lane in the European Union reform process.

According to officials who wished to remain unidentified, the warning came from a top level military official, during a meeting held last month in Ankara to review Turkey's reform process. The intra-governmental meeting on Sept. 17, presided by Turkish Foreign Minister and EU Chief Negotiator Ali Babacan was attended by top level bureaucrats as well as Lt. Gen. Hilmi Akın Zorlu, head of the General Staff Planning and Principles Department.

During the meeting Zorlu said the General Chief of Staff has been closely following Turkey's reform process. Reading from a text he said was approved by the General Chief of Staff, Zorlu warned not to take additional measures on sensitive issues like article 301 of the Turkish penal code, the law increasing the rights of religious foundations and the Cyprus issue.

Zorlu's intervention was referred to as the “September 17 ultimatum” in reference to a similar warning issued on April 28 by the military. During the process of electing the president in Parliament, the Army published a memorandum on its Internet site warning against the choice of a pro-Islamist candidate (Erdogan's deputy, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül) with a headscarf wearing wife. The virtual ultimatum by the Army prompted early elections in Turkey that resulted in a landslide victory for the AKP, which increased hope in European circles that the new government will reactivate the stalled reform process.

The military's warning on the reform process comes just weeks ahead of the publication of the European Commission's annual report on Turkey's progress toward EU membership, expected to be critical of the slow pace of reforms during an election year. The notorious article 301 of the Turkish penal code is expected to appear high on the list of criticism. The European Union has been pressing Ankara to abolish or change the article, which punishes the offense of insulting “Turkishness.”

During his Sept. 17 speech, however, Lt. Gen. Zorlu said similar laws existed in countries of the European Union and made clear that the army will not be happy to see any amendment in the article, the Turkish Daily News learned.

Zorlu also said the army did not deem right any amendments to the foundation law, a source familiar with the meeting told the TDN. The EU also wants amendments in the law in order to improve the rights of non-Muslim minorities.

The military official also asked the government to proceed very carefully on the Cyprus issue.

Turkey's EU bid suffered a serious blow in December 2006 when the bloc froze talks in eight of the 35 policy areas candidates are required to complete over Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to shipping from EU-member Greek Cyprus.

“Lt. Gen. Zorlu was very detailed in his comments on the Cyprus issue. He also mentioned the immovable property commission in northern Cyprus,” said a Turkish official to the TDN. According to the same official Zorlu said the Turkish side should act with caution as far as the deliberations of the committee are concerned.

The property commission was established as a domestic remedy mechanism to prevent thousands of Greek Cypriots from applying to the European Court of Human Rights for property they abandoned in the north in 1974. This mechanism, also recognized by the European court, lays open the way for a settlement to property disputes with a formula including not only compensation but also exchange and return of property.

The activities of the property commission receive support from the Turkish government as it will stop Turkey paying thousands of euros in compensation and also bring a solution to the most complicated property disputes on the island. Lt. Gen. Zorlu's reference to this issue has shown the unease within military circles about the activities of the property commission.

According to the Turkish bureaucrats dealing with EU issues in Ankara, the military felt the need to step in due to the impression that the AKP will go ahead quickly with the eagerly sought human rights reforms.

“However, their concern is not justified since this is a false impression. The government is unlikely to pass major reforms sought by the EU before the Commission progress report in November,” a Turkish official told the TDN. The meeting of the Reform Monitoring Committee, which came a day after the Sept. 17 gathering, let down those bureaucrats who believe the Turkish government needs to act more vigilantly, if it wants to avoid a negative report in November.

During the meeting, Beşir Atalay, the Interior minister and Mehmet Ali Şahin, the Justice minister, clearly expressed their unwillingness to make any amendments to article 301.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr";