Europe wants Turkey to enact personal data protection law

Europe wants Turkey to enact personal data protection law

The debate on the issues pertaining to Syria and foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) is like a medallion that has two sides.

On one side of the medallion are Turkey’s complaints that its very early warnings of taking no action in Syria would turn the country into a hotbed of terrorists were not taken seriously by its Western allies.

On the other side of the medallion is the Western powers’ belated realization of the threat FTFs can pose in their own countries, which sparked their criticism that Turkey has turned a blind eye to FTFs’ crossings into Syria via the Turkish border. 

Obviously, it would not be politically correct for Turkey to say, “In face of inaction, we thought support of some Islamist groups would quicken Bashar al–Assad’s fall,” and for Western powers to say, “We didn’t anticipated the radicals coming from our countries would return and pose a threat to us.”

At any rate, the blame game seems to have left in its place cooperation, although there still remains a lot of room for improvement. 

Turkey’s Western allies look convinced that the Turkish government has now come to realize the threat posed by radical Islamist groups and that Turkey is taking measures to stop FTFs’ crossings. They also seem to have accepted Turkey’s view that the Western powers’ first and foremost duty and responsibility is to detect possible FTFs and apprehend them before they leave their own countries. 

The Turkish side has been criticizing its allies for not giving the necessary information about potential FTFs.

“The moment we are given information, we will do our utmost to cooperate and take the necessary steps,” the Turkish officials say to their interlocutors.

Yet, there seem to be a bureaucratic hurdle as far as information sharing is concerned. The Europeans are complaining that Turkey has no personal data protection law, thus creating serious legal problems as far as sharing their nationals’ information with Turkey is concerned. 

There is already a drafted law in the Turkish parliament. But it was both criticized by Turkish opposition as well as EU officials for not abiding by international standards.

In a country that is sliding into authoritarian rule, it might be a bit naïve to expect the parliament to enact a democratic personal data protection law. We are talking about a country that has been enacting draconian laws like the security bill and making amendments to laws regarding the internet and the national intelligence agency, which are feared to be restricting on personal freedoms. 

If the European Union succeeds in convincing Turkey to have a more democratic personal data protection law, ironically, it will be thanks to the Europeans that Turks will make progress fighting back the  AKP’s “big brotherly” intentions. 

And perhaps even this example can serve as small reason explaining the continued high level of support among Turks for EU membership. 

In a recent poll, 42.4 percent of respondents said they wanted Turkey to become a member of the EU. This constitutes a drop, as that ratio was 47.5 percent in 2013. Yet, when considering the current state of affairs in Turkey–EU accession talks, 42 percent is still significantly high. Ironically, the poll, conducted by Kadir Has University and made public May 27, shows that 47.6 percent believes Turkey will never become an EU member. 

Despite the fact that many Turks see membership unlikely and despite the standstill in relations, the high level of support can perhaps be explained by the Turks’ conviction that, despite all the ups and downs, keeping the EU as an anchor proves beneficial for the country.