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Turkish Press Review, 08-04-15
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From: Turkish Directorate General of Press and Information <http://www.byegm.gov.tr>Summary of the political and economic news in the Turkish press this morning
15.04.2008FROM THE COLUMNS … FROM THE COLUMNS … FROM THE COLUMNS…
 ERDOGAN HOLDS TALKS IN QATARPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday, currently on visit to Qatar, attended a luncheon hosted by Qatari Emir Khalifa Al Thani. Afterwards, Erdogan met separately with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and French socialist Segolene Royal, who was a leading contender in last year's French presidential election. After the gatherings, Erdogan said they had discussed relations between Turkey and Qatar, international issues such as the situation in Iraq, Israel, Palestine and the Middle East, as well as Turkey's European Union accession process. Erdogan also met with Turks living in Qatar. Speaking at a gathering of Turkish-Qatari businessmen, Erdogan said, "For Europe, Turkey is a gateway to the Middle East, and for the Middle East, it is a gateway to Europe. This is a chance for Qataris." Erdogan is also set to meet with Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al Athiyya, accompanied by his Turkish counterpart Hilmi Guler, to discuss energy cooperation opportunities. /Star- Sabah/
 IN LONDON, FM BABACAN MEETS WITH MILIBANDForeign Minister and chief negotiator for Turkey's European Union talks Ali Babacan yesterday met with British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband in London, with Turkey's Ambassador in London Yigit Alpogan and Britain's Ambassador in Ankara Nick Baird also in attendance. At a joint press conference afterwards, Miliband said that Britain is proud to have very strong ties with Turkey. Stating that they had discussed bilateral and regional issues, Miliband added, "We look at Turkey as a strong force in its region. We have reaffirmed Britain's support for Turkey's EU membership bid." For his part, Babacan said, "Relations between Turkey and Britain are excellent." Babacan was also received by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. /Sabah/
 REVISIONS TO ARTICLE 301 SENT TO PARLIAMENT'S JUSTICE COMMISSIONAfter returning to Ankara after a visit to China, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan yesterday sent to a Parliament commission a government proposal to amend Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), seen as a key obstacle to Turkey's European Union membership talks. Justice Commission members are expected to hold initial hearings on the proposal on Friday amid debate over who should be responsible for starting the legal process to file charges for denigrating Turkish identity or insulting the country's institutions. Although the current proposal would give this responsibility to the president, Toptan told reporters that leaving the decision to the justice minister would be better. In related news, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a visit to Qatar, said that after much discussion he and his colleagues had decided to give the president the authority, as he is above both politics and political parties. "As the justice minister is involved in politics, a decision from the president would be more trustworthy," said the premier. /Hurriyet/
 CHP, MHP ARGUE AGAINST CHANGES TO ARTICLE 301Arguing that accepting changes "sought by foreigners" would be improper, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy leader Mustafa Ozyurek yesterday said the CHP is opposed to proposed changes to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). "Similar laws exist in a number of European countries as well," he said. "Every state wants to protect its basic values and principles and doesn't allow people to insult its nation and institutions." He added that rather than changing the law, the government should train jurists on the issue to make clear when people can be accused of violating it. Ozyurek also expressed his party's objection to proposals to give the president the authority to begin the legal process under 301. In addition, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) group deputy chairman Mehmet Sandir also criticized efforts to change the article, saying that the changes lack public support but are being pushed by the Armenian "genocide" lobby, the terrorist PKK, and ethnic separatists, as well as the European Union. "We won't support the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in tolerating people who insult the Republic of Turkey," said Sandir. /Cumhuriyet/
 CHIEF OF STAFF BUYUKANIT BEGINS VISIT TO EGYPTArriving in Cairo yesterday to hold talks, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit was welcomed by Egyptian officials. Buyukanit first visited the Castle of Salahaddin and its military museum. Today Buyukanit will meet with President Hosni Mubarak and hold talks with Defense Minister Marshal Hussein Tantani and his Egyptian counterpart Sami H. Enan. Buyukanit will also visit tombs of Turkish soldiers who died during World War I. Turkey is working to improve relations with Egypt in response to Greece's recent efforts to do the same. This was Buyukanit's first invitation to visit from a foreign president. /Milliyet/
 TURKISH-US PARTNERSHIP STRESSED AHEAD OF WASHINGTON MEETINGArriving in Washington yesterday to attend the 27th conference of the Turkish-American Council, State Minister for Foreign Trade Kursat Tuzmen, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and State Minister Mehmet Simsek attended a reception given by Turkey's Ambassador to Washington Nabi Sensoy. Military officials from Turkey and US Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson also attended. During the reception, Tuzmen told Wilson, "Trade between Turkey and the US is soaring, but this increase is fuelled by Turkey's imports from the US," adding that Turkey's exports to the US are actually falling. President Abdullah Gul and US President George W. Bush both sent congratulatory messages to the reception. In his message, Gul stressed that the two countries have enjoyed a longtime, strong partnership on many important issues. Bush also stressed the strong ties of partnership between the two countries, saying, "The US and Turkey share the determination to improve democracy and peace all over the world." In related news, Tuzmen also touched upon recent warnings by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank about a possible global food crisis, saying, "For the time being, there is no need for extraordinary government action against this possibility." He added that the government will act rapidly should the need arise. Tuzmen also strongly condemned speculators trying to benefit from this situation, saying that the government wouldn't allow Turkish consumers to be exploited. /Turkiye/
FROM THE COLUMNS … FROM THE COLUMNS … FROM THE COLUMNS…
 THE PRESIDENT AND ARTICLE 301BY TAHA AKYOL (MILLIYET)
Columnist Taha Akyol comments on proposed changes to Turkish Penal Code Article 301. A summary of his column is as follows:
“Article 301 will be changed. I consider this positive for two reasons. Firstly, in legal terms, the limits of freedom of thought will expand. In the law, the terms ‘Turkishness’ and ‘Republic’ will be replaced by the ‘Turkish nation’ and ‘Turkish Republic,’ and thus elements of the crime of insult will become more concrete. Secondly, in political terms, filing charges under 301 will be subject to prior authorization, and so certain cases creating PR problems for Turkey will be avoided. Let’s ask ourselves: Did the cases against novelist Orhan Pamuk and the late Hrant Dink benefit anyone? Did they really protect the Turkishness or the republic, or did they on the contrary damage Turkey’s reputation? The need for prior authorization is meant to prevent this. From now on, no cases can be filed without considering the political consequences.
But the problem is: Who will give this prior authorization? Will it be the justice minister, as in the past? Or will it be the president, as is now proposed? The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wants it to be the president. But Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan disagrees, believing the person in his post should have the authority. All over the world, justice ministers belong to a party and they have political responsibilities. But, constitutionally, Turkey's presidents don’t belong to a party, as they are neutral. So should a justice minister belonging to a party or a neutral president approve charges under 301? Here, the term ‘neutral’ seems to be key. I’ve always argued that prior authorization should be needed and that a Cabinet minister or the president should exercise this. But after debate and further thought, I think Toptan is actually right.
Here, the president’s neutral character or the justice minister’s character as a person belonging to a group has no legal standing, because the prior authorization won’t try to determine whether a crime was actually committed or not. The judicial branch will decide this, but the prior authorization is political, and will consider whether filing charges is politically appropriate. The principle of the separation of powers requires that this process should not be judicial, but political. It also fits the system’s logic better to have the decision made by the Justice Ministry. This was the situation in Turkey until 2004. The prior authorization process is like this in Western countries as well.
The claim that giving this authority to the president would be unconstitutional is a serious one. The Constitution enumerates the president’s authorities, and the Constitutional Court might overrule attempts to give him more authority. Similarly, the Constitution spells out Parliament’s authorities, and the court has ruled against it being given more authority. What’s more, there should be a balanced decrease in presidential authority, and providing him with new powers would not be right.”
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