EU mulls total ban on PKK rallies and flags

EU mulls total ban on PKK rallies and flags

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
EU mulls total ban on PKK rallies and flags

Officials from Turkey and the European Union will meet in late November in Ankara for a counterterrorism dialogue meeting, during which they will discuss banning the symbols of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) across Europe, an EU official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Brussels plans to extend the ban on symbols of the PKK but ultimately the decision will be made by national governments, an EU official in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If a group like the PKK is listed as a terrorist organization, it means that anything showing support for them - symbols, flags or whatever – amounts to making propaganda for them and should also fall under the same ban. So we are proposing to member states that they should also extend this to symbols and flags,” the official noted.

Sanctions and counterterrorism legislation falls within EU competence and any decision to identify a group as a terrorist organization is the responsibility of the European Union, the official said, while adding that dealing with criminal offenses falls within the competence of EU member states.

The official noted that so far this has been done explicitly only for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and waving ISIL’s flag is therefore a criminal offense in many European countries, the official added.

He also recalled that Germany instructed its district offices to ban flags of the PKK a few months ago.

Warning on progress report

EU head of states are due to meet on Oct. 19 and Turkey is expected to be a key issue at the dinner.

“The accession process has not made any progress for many years. But there are many issues that we cannot afford to stop talking to each other about,” said the official. “These range from the economy and counterterrorism to the situation in Syria and Iraq, foreign policy issues and migration. There are many issues that cannot be put on hold just because the accession process not moving forward.”

Turkey and the EU will hold meetings on energy and transportation policy in November, followed by a meeting on economic ties and the EU-Turkey Association Council in December.

However, Brussels is waiting for progress from Turkey on the rule of law and human rights as key criteria for accession to the bloc, stated the official in Ankara.

The EU’s annual “progress report” on Turkey’s accession bid will be particularly significant upon its release in April 2018 because with it “a change in the relationship with Turkey” could come onto the agenda, the official said.

“Member countries may demand for the European Commission to say that Turkey no longer complies with the criteria … But still there is an “open window for Turkey until the end of the year,” said the official.

“If you want to establish good relations with the European Union you must have a good relationship with the individual member states,” the official added.

“You cannot expect a member state that has a difficult relationship with Turkey to say ‘yes’ to things at the European level. One cannot afford to have such a difficult relationship with Germany, for example,” he added.