Turkey’s civilian rule move gets EU praise

Turkey’s civilian rule move gets EU praise

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s civilian rule move gets EU praise

‘For any EU citizen, it’s strange that there are arrested deputies,’ EU’s envoy to Turkey, Ripert, says and adds: ‘We understand that this is a very complicated issue.’

The European Union wholeheartedly welcomes the Turkish government’s efforts to end the age of military tutelage and consolidate civilian rule over the country, the union’s top envoy to Turkey has said.

“There’s no doubt that we support this normalization [in civil-military relations],” Jean-Maurice Ripert told journalists yesterday. “The mainstreaming of the role of the army under civilian control is one of the bases of civilian democracy,” he added, citing the EU’s Progress Report released in 2011, which hailed the progress Turkey has made in harmonizing its civil-military ties with EU norms.

“Generally speaking, any country should face its past,” Ripert said, adding that this notion made possible the very foundation of the EU in the late 1950s.

Ripert however, said the issue of arrested deputies was essentially incomprehensible to any EU citizen. “For any EU citizen, it’s strange that there are arrested deputies. We understand that this is a very complicated, difficult and strange issue.”

Ripert’s words came as Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek launched a new campaign for a solution to the problem, which is seen as the main hurdle to the constitution-making process. Eight deputies from three opposition parties have not been released from prison despite being elected in last year’s general elections.

The situation is very complicated because the lawmakers were already in prison when they were nominated to run for Parliament and because the Supreme Election Board (YSK) did not reject their applications since they had not been convicted.

Though it was not up to the EU to intervene on domestic political issues, the ambassador said the issue of arrested deputies was “not popular” in the bloc.

Ripert also touched on the problems of delivering justice in Turkey, such as the conditions and duration of detentions. These issues constitute another item in the EU’s consultations with the Turkish Justice Ministry, he said, noting that a team from his delegation visited Silivri Prison to monitor the trial process in the Ergenekon trial.

New charter solution for many problems

Turkey’s new constitution could solve many of the country’s problems if the charter is successfully drafted, he said.

Praising the inclusiveness and meticulousness of the constitution-making process under Çiçek’s leadership, the EU envoy said they were closely watching developments.

Citing their meetings with some members of the Constitution Reconciliation Committee, who are seeking consensus for the new charter, the ambassador said: “We don’t know what will happen if it is not completed through consensus. Let’s keep faith and hope for the success of the process.”

Füle to arrive May 17

Ripert also said the EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Füle, would arrive in Turkey on May 17 to launch working groups on eight different topics as part of a “positive agenda.” Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, will also be in Turkey in May.

Touching on free-visa regime discussions, Ripert said he was hopeful that the EU would give the mandate to the European Commission to launch negotiations with Turkey during the Danish term presidency, which ends June 30.