Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (2L), EU President Herman Van Rompuy (2R), European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and European Parliament leader Martin Schulz (L) during a joint press statement. AFP photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
gave assurances to the European Union
to respect the rule of law, judicial independence and the separation of powers amid the government’s move to draft a controversial judicial bill in response to an ongoing graft probe.
“We have followed the events closely, and I have today relayed the European concerns to Prime Minister Erdoğan as an honest friend and partner. I was quite happy during the discussion because Prime Minister Erdoğan, in a very frank and open manner, addressed all the issues and gave us reassurances,” European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said during a press statement in Brussels Jan. 21.
Both Barosso and EU President Herman van Rompuy said during the press conference that the EU has been closely following the developments since the launch of raids as part of the graft probes on Dec. 17, 2013.
Carrying out his first visit to Brussels since 2009 after a turbulent 2013 marked by the Gezi protests and closed by a damaging graft scandal, Erdoğan explained that the government’s reform intended to enhance “the judiciary’s neutrality.” “If you try to use the judiciary’s independence by departing from the principle of neutrality, this will cause problems. To overcome them, it is the duty of the legislative power to set the principles of both the independence and neutrality of the judiciary,” he said.
The judiciary bill currently being debated in the Turkish Parliament sparked a war of words between Ankara
and Brussels, with European Commissioner Stefan Füle emphasizing that the reforms should be in line with the EU legislation.
Van Rompuy said Brussels was “confident” that the Turkish government would address the problems raised by Brussels.
“We know how challenging some of the issues that Turkey is now confronting are, but I want to state very clearly that Turkey is not alone in this, and we stand ready to support you,” he said. He also refused to comment whether the probes were the result of a “conspiracy” against the Turkish government. “What we said during the press statement are the same things that we talked about during the meetings,” he said. Full support for Kurdish peace bid
The top EU officials also expressed their support for the Kurdish peace bid launched by the government a year ago.
“This is the best chance in a generation to resolve a conflict that has claimed far too many lives. The European Union
fully supports these efforts and we are ready to help in any way we can,” Barroso said.
For his part, Erdoğan urged the EU to open new chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations, as the only chapter opened in the last two years occurred in November 2013.
“We are pleased to see a common will on the issue of opening new chapters,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also expressed Turkey’s discomfort over the release of a report presenting large testimonies and photographs of 11,000 dead detainees in Syria, stressing the concerns regarding border security, while urging action during Geneva II meetings that will begin today.
For their part, Barroso and van Rompuy commended Turkey’s response to the humanitarian tragedy in Syria.
“I would like to reiterate our gratitude for Turkey’s great efforts to host not only the refugees but also the European Union’s crisis response personnel,” van Rompuy said.