Free speech a must for joining EU family: Kroes

Free speech a must for joining EU family: Kroes

Cansu Çamlıbel ISTANBUL
Free speech a must for joining EU family: Kroes Turkey should prioritize expanding freedom of speech to achieve improvement in its bid to join the European Union, according to Neelie Kroes, the vice president of the EU Commission.

“We should take into account for membership to the European family, it is absolutely a must that freedom of speech and media are guaranteed,” she told Hürriyet after the three-day Internet Governance Forum (IGF) last week.

“I am impressed by what has been done in your economic development. It is absolutely great effort with great result. But you should whatever has to be done to give opportunities for the people to use instrument of new tools to have a debate, said Kroes, who is the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda.

The commissioner also expressed her “sadness” about the Twitter blocking in Turkey. The country has been criticized for having a stranglehold on freedom of speech on the Internet, reflected in the high-profile government bans applied on Twitter and YouTube earlier this year.

Also commenting on the sentiment towards Turkey among European societies, Kroes praised the Constitution Court decisions that ended the social media bans.

“If the main court decision forbids that blocking, if that is the line this government shall take as a starting point, then a lot of the discussion about blaming Turkey can be taken away.”

The commissioned linked the politicians’ efforts to put power on the media to a weakness in general terms. “By definition, professional journalists must be a person that is stimulating discussion that gives opportunities for dialogue. If you are not doing this then you are not very certain of your case. Otherwise why shouldn’t you?” she asked.

The outcome of the elections has given a lot of confidence to the government, she added. “So they should just jump out of their own shadow. They should take the values part of democracy very seriously. Then go on, I am certain that this would make a lot of sense in the discussion in the EU.”

The European Union is also highly involved in the debate about privacy and cyber security, she said.

Referring to last year’s United States National Security Agency (NSA) scandal, which was basically reports on the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Kroes said, “Talking about the NSA, I always think spying is the second oldest profession on earth and sometimes it is connected with the first. Having said that, governments need to protect their people. Spying is everywhere as you know it has also taken place in Germany and other member states. But in certain cases, it is far too much, then you have to act.”