EU, Turkey differ over planned body for data protection

EU, Turkey differ over planned body for data protection

Emine Kart - ANKARA
EU, Turkey differ over planned body for data protection A draft law on the protection of personal data fails to outline the establishment of an independent oversight body that would guard such data as required by the EU acquis, an official from the bloc has said.

“The law does not assure establishment of an independent body for protection of personal data,” a senior EU diplomat, who requested anonymity, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News while recalling that EU regulations require the establishment of a supervisory authority to be provided by member states by law. Accordingly, members should be selected from among individuals whose independence is beyond any doubt, the EU diplomat emphasized.

EU officials said they conveyed their review of the draft to their Turkish counterparts. Upon the completion of commission-level debates earlier this week, Turkey’s parliament began General Assembly-level debates on the draft. The government wishes to complete debates by the weekend before budget deliberations begin.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has already announced that if the draft is adopted, it will take the law to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the motion aimed at “blacklisting” the entire population of Turkey under the pretext of harmonization with the EU.

“Of course, personal data should be protected. But now this [government] will start blacklisting everybody in the name of the protection of personal data. They have already started doing that. They are trying to legalize it,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Feb. 23.

“In the West, an autonomous body is tasked with protecting personal data. Here, a commission, an institution is being founded and three of its members will be appointed by the president, while four of its members will be appointed by the cabinet. Are you kidding me? Whatever is the standard in the West, bring that one,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Still, Turkish officials, strongly defended the draft to the Hürriyet Daily News, saying it was “fully in harmony” with EU regulations.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, meanwhile, suggested that a “Personal Data Protection Board” that would be established with the draft was in line with similar institutions found in EU member states. He also refuted suggestions that the draft would pave the way for the collection of all data in a so-called “pool.”

“The cabinet also comes out of parliament, and it is a body elected by the nation,” Bozdağ told reporters on Feb. 24, in a bid to justify arrangement outlining the selection of the prospected body by the government.

The EU official admitted that they also permit intelligence agencies to have access to personal data, but only “to a certain extent.”

In defense of the draft, a senior Turkish civil servant who is taking part in membership negotiations between Ankara and Brussels suggested that EU officials’ arguments concerning the draft over the absence of an independent body were “groundless.”

“As a matter of fact, the related EU regulation to which the EU officials refer in their criticism says members of this supervisory authority should be appointed ‘by the parliament or the government,’” the civil servant told the Hürriyet Daily News on customary condition of anonymity. “Thus, their criticism is groundless.”

The official cited the appointment of members of the nine-seat Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) by the cabinet as an example vindicating their view of the planned board.