Philip Claeys, a Member of the European Parliament for Belgium, issued the following press release on April 30th.
Vlaams Belang: EU must suspend negotiations with Turkey
Cosmetic finery of article 301 is a provocation
The Vlaams Belang delegation in the European Parliament finds that the long-awaited reform of the notorious article 301 of the Turkish penal code, curbing the freedom of speech, is nothing more than a mere eyewash.
Insulting the Turkish nation rather than ‘Turkishness’ will now be punishable under the new law. It is only a question of semantics, which in practice will not change anything. Those who publicly criticize the occupation of northern Cyprus, the treatment of the Kurdish minority or the non-recognition of the Armenian genocide remain punishable like before.
From now on the introduction of a criminal procedure has to get an approval from the minister of justice, a very peculiar construction that puts aside the separation of powers, a fundamental principle of the rule of law.
Lastly, maximum punishment is reduced from three to two years of imprisonment. Thus in the year 2008 the expression of forbidden opinions can still lead to imprisonment in Turkey.
– – – – – – – – –
Turkey still has serious shortcomings in the field of democracy and human rights. Instead of being reformed, article 301 should be scrapped altogether, along with all the other articles and regulations which violate freedom of speech.
The European Union has to suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey immediately, as promised to the voters in case Turkey would refuse to improve its human rights record.
If the European Commission approves this kind of cosmetic finery operations, it will lose credibility and the whole further negotiation procedure with Turkey will become a farce. Vlaams Belang will interrogate enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn in the European Parliament about the slack position of the Commission in this question.
Member of the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament