Erdoğan got the EU message on judiciary

Erdoğan got the EU message on judiciary

It is possible to separate Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s stance on the controversial judiciary bill in Turkey as before and after his visit to Brussels where he had top level talks with the European Union officials on Jan. 21.

On his way back from Brussels on Jan. 22, he said he had told EU officials that the removals of judges and prosecutors who are involved in corruption probes from their positions and submitting a bill to the Parliament to have more control on the judiciary should not be counted as political intervention, but “cleaning” the judiciary from the members of what he calls a “parallel structure” within the state apparatus. He had also added that the EU officials “understood,” also meaning “sympathized with” in the way he put it in Turkish, when he explained properly.

According to Radikal newspaper, EU Enlargement Comissioner Stefan Füle has sent two letters to Turkey’s new EU Affairs Minister Mevlit Çavuşoğlu expressing concerns regarding the bill and possible political influence on judiciary.

Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, had made it clear during the joint press conference with Erdoğan on Jan. 21 that the EU wanted to see a judicial system free of political intervention, not more.

When Eroğan came back, he went up to the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in Ankara to have his weekly briefing with President Abdullah Gül on January 23.

Gül had made it clear before Erdoğan’s Brussels visit that he could veto the law if it comes without changes to the political control on the judiciary articles of the bill. And the talks between Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on a Constitutional amendment package for a stronger judicial system, inspired by Gül, was cut because CHP claimed that AK Parti did not stop the proceedings on the bill, despite the pre-condition. Erdoğan had dismissed the disappointment remarks including the one by Gül.

But on Jan. 24, Erdoğan announced his party’s decision to suspend the articles of the bill on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) related with the structure of the Board, the only controversial part. 

Surprisingly, a welcoming remark came from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP. As soon as the word went around for the re-start of the Constitutional talks between the two, AK Parti said that they agreed with the CHP to freeze the HSYK bill to see whether they could go any further on the Constitutional package. 

That was exactly what both Gül and Kılıçdaroğlu had suggested in the first place. But the change came after Erdoğan’s visit to Brussels. That is another indication showing that Erdoğan really cares about Turkey’s links with the EU and cares about what the EU officials say, if they say it properly, despite his bitter rhetoric inside Turkey.