No need for concern over graft probe, Turkey’s new EU minister tells Brussels
Mevlüt Çavuşuğlu took over as EU Minister from Egemen Bağış following the large Cabinet reshuffle Dec. 25. AA photoTurkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has called on the 28-nation bloc not to make “unilateral and impatient statements via media” and urged calm over the events following a major graft probe.
“No one should have any concern about Turkey’s commitment to the principle of rule of law and obligations stemming from the EU accession process,” Çavuşoğlu wrote on his official Twitter account.
The EU has voiced its concern over the government response to recent graft probes that involve high-profile names and relatives of ruling party members.
Çavuşuğlu took over as EU Minister precisely from one of those names, Egemen Bağış, following the large Cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25. The outspoken Bağış was one of the four ministers implicated in the graft probe with claims of bribery.
According to some reports, Bağış’s ties with Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab were under scrutiny. Zarrab was charged with forming a ring that bribed officials to help disguise illegal gold sales to Iran via Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank.
But Bağış did not resign from his post despite the allegations, unlike the former economy, interior and environment ministers, whose sons were taken into custody as part of the probe.
A spokesman for the European Commission said Jan. 8 “recent developments” in the country were “a cause of concern.”
“We urge Turkey, as a candidate country committed to the political criteria of accession, including the application of the rule of law, to take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner,” said a Commission statement.
Çavuşoğlu said everybody should respect the ongoing judicial process. “Unilateral and impatient statements via media regarding the on-going legal procedures should be avoided out of respect to the rule of law,” the minister wrote.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was defiant on EU’s criticisms for recent government attempt to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), saying that the amendment was to clarify some blurred areas in judiciary which was abused by some circles for unlawful, human rights abusing practices.
The political turmoil in Turkey erupted mid-December amid allegations of corruption implicating the sons of three ex-ministers and businessmen close to the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has insisted it will overcome the probes, while Erdoğan has described it as a “plot” to topple his 11-year government. The government struck back with a wave of police sackings, as well as recent moves in the past days to increase control over the judiciary.