“Turkey is much more free than almost any EU country. When you refer to the Gezi Park events, why do you not see the events in Frankfurt or Hamburg? Have you seen what the police did there? Why do you [not] see what happens in England? … We stand against damages done to public property. Our job is to take measures to establish peace and order,” Erdoğan said in response to a question asking if Turkey was moving away from democracy and becoming a more authoritarian state, regarding criticism over last summer’s nationwide Gezi Park protests and the Internet law.
Erdoğan’s remarks to Al Jazeera Turk were published after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s visit to Brussels, where top EU officials suggested having early consultations with the European Commission (EC), the bloc’s executive arm, before enacting any law related to Turkey’s accession process.
After talks with Davutoğlu, Çavuşoğlu and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Brussels on Monday, Stefan Füle, the European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, said the recent developments in Turkey were discussed during the meeting.
“We underlined the need for Turkey, as a candidate country in accession negotiations, to engage in early consultations with the EC on all laws related to both the accession process and the political criteria,” Füle said, according to a statement the EU Commission released a couple of hours after the meeting.
A controversial new Internet law granting the government’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) the power to block websites in violation of privacy without seeking permission from a court was passed in Parliament last week. The measures also force Internet providers to keep records of users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities upon request. The law, which is seen by experts as a tool for the government to censor the Internet as well as profile Internet users, has drawn increasing criticism from the EU. The law still needs the approval of President Abdullah Gül.
“With regard to the Internet law, the Commission agreed to share in writing a number of the concerns identified, regarding both compatibility with the acquis and EU best practices,” Füle said. “It is the Commission’s duty to monitor the developments and express concerns when these are justified and to also offer help and support to ensure compatibility with the acquis and EU best practice.”
After having talks with top EU officials, Çavuşoğlu also commented on issues that were discussed during the meeting. He said that he and Davutoğlu provided necessary information to their European colleagues on the suspended draft bill to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and the Internet law, and told Ashton and Füle, “These are not restrictions but regulations.”
He also indirectly responded to Füle’s statement, saying: “They say that before enforcing a law, the government should consult with the Venice Commission or the EU. As you know, every day a new reform package is presented [to Parliament], and these [laws] should be put into effect immediately. Our receipt of their views on every law is not likely to happen in practice.”
Çavuşoğlu reminded European officials to obtain information from the Turkish government. “We reminded them that some official statements [of EU officials] contain incorrect information. … If they have any concerns or hesitations regarding a bill, [they should] first get the information [directly] from us to see exactly what it is, what we want to do, what it contains and its aims,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding: “If they are still not satisfied with this information, then it is their call.”
Turkey has been expressing its uneasiness over the EU officials’ concerned statements. Turkey first urged the EU to be more cautious when making statements about Turkey’s internal affairs, especially those with political aspects. Çavuşoğlu then invited his EU colleagues to find true and exact information on developments before releasing statements.