Diageo concerned as Parliament discusses bill restricting alcohol sale
ISTANBUL / ANKARA
If the bill is approved, education, sports and health institutions will be prevented from selling alcoholic drinks. DAILY NEWS photoDiageo, the world’s largest spirits company that also owns Turkey’s leading rakı brand, has expressed concerns over planned alcohol restrictions. The reaction came after a brief introductory debate marked by bickering, which was followed by the Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission’s proposal to a sub-commission for further restrictions on the sale and promotion of alcoholic drinks earlier yesterday.
“While we have regard and respect for both the views of the Turkish government and the country’s legislative and regulatory processes, we would be highly disappointed if the most restrictive scenario came to pass,” Diageo said in a written statement.
“Diageo is proud of its products, its brands and its commitment to responsible drinking,” it said. London-based Diageo, which owns global brands such as Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, acquired Mey İçki for $2.1 billion early in 2011.
Meanwhile at the Parliament, a heated debate erupted between deputies of the AKP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), after CHP members compared Isparta deputy Süreyya Sadi Bilgiç and Manisa deputy Recai Berber, who were among the AKP deputies drafting the proposal, to “Murat IV,” an Ottoman sultan who ruled from 1623 to 1640 and is known for his ban on alcohol.
‘Sultan used to drink’
CHP Istanbul deputy Ferit Mevlüt Aslanoğlu’s words sparked the controversy. “I like Recai Berber a lot, so I would be upset if Berber and Bilgiç were called ‘Murat IV.’ I would be upset if they became sultans like Murat IV,” Aslanoğlu said. Similarly, the CHP’s Veli Ağbaba suggested the ban would be tantamount to hypocrisy. “Murat IV himself used to drink, he banned it but he himself used to drink secretly,” Ağbaba said.
The discussion escalated to such a level that Lütfi Elvan, the AKP’s Karaman deputy heading the commission, had to interrupt and suspend the session.
On May 10, the AKP proposed harsher measures related to alcohol, banning all sorts of advertising and obliging producers to include information about the risks of alcohol on the packaging of every unit. In the event of the measures being infringed, the guilty company will be totally banned from sale. Alongside this, alcohol producers will no longer be allowed to sponsor cultural festivals. If the bill is approved, education, sports and health institutions, as well as establishments next to highways, will be prevented from selling alcoholic drinks. Sales via automatic vending machines, telephone, and the Internet will also be banned.