Law harmony needed for help on terror: EU

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 23.11.2012 – The EU tells Turkey to speed up plans to pass laws to safeguard personal data and halt terror financing in return for more cooperation in terrorism fight.

European countries could better cooperate with Turkey in its fight against terror if Ankara would further harmonize its law with that of the EU, including adopting a measure on the protection of personal data as well as an international convention against the financing of terrorism. “So many countries in the EU show an unwillingness to share information with Turkey due the absence of the Law on the Protection of Personal Data. European governments want to be sure that the information provided on European citizens will not be circulated,” an EU diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News. The draft law was submitted to Parliament in 2008 but has not yet been passed. “We are planning to re-send it to the Prime Ministry in the coming days,” Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters on Nov. 19 in İzmir, acknowledging the existing problems with the EU. “We will remove obstacles before the exchange of information and cooperation with EU countries.” Though Turkish institutions implement the law, it has not been formally legislated, leading EU governments to feel discomfort in exchanging information on persons suspected of being involved in terror-related crimes.

Criticism to the bloc

Turkish politicians frequently criticize EU countries for not showing enough sensitivity in assisting in Turkey’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which generates millions of euros every year thanks to its strong organization in a number of European countries. The estimated monetary figure raised for the PKK in Europe is around half a billion euros, which is then easily transferred to their bases in northern Iraq. The EU and the United States, however, place some responsibility on Turkey’s shoulders, as the government suspended the adoption of an international convention preventing the financing of terrorism. Washington pushed Turkey to ratify the convention, which was brought to Parliament’s agenda in the early 2000s after the U.N. adopted it.

Although Parliament’s sub-commissions have discussed the adoption of the convention, it has not been brought to the General Assembly for legislation. Opposition parties are critical of the content and argue that it provides the government and agencies with too broad an authority. According to sources, the Turkish government delayed the process until the conclusion of the new Constitution, which will redefine terrorism in an attempt to alleviate criticism regarding its current broad definition. The ratification process of the convention will likely follow the progress of the new Constitution. This is also the expectation of the EU, which criticized Turkey in its last Progress Report for restrictions on freedom of expression. Many speeches or reports are considered violation of terror-related laws, thus heavy penalties have been issued to journalists, academics and politicians. “Our main expectation from the government is to address these issues in the fourth judicial package,” an EU diplomat said.