European Union voices concern over inadequacy of privacy bill

European Union voices concern over inadequacy of privacy bill: “The European Union has criticized a bill on the protection of private data, a piece of legislation that has been given priority in the country’s efforts for greater harmonization with EU legislation, saying that the scope of exceptions mentioned in the bill is so vast and ambiguous that that it will be insufficient to prevent abuse.”

EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove recently paid a visit to the parliamentary EU Harmonization Commission and stated that in order for Turkey to aid international counterterrorism efforts, it should pass the bill in the shortest time possible. He noted, however, that the bill has numerous ambiguous exceptions and that they have concerns that this may lead to racial discrimination.

Concerning de Kerchove’s demand for revision of the bill, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Onur Öymen said, “We, too, seek to do this, but in Turkey, even wiretapping phone calls can stir debates.”

The bill prohibits the collecting of private data concerning race, political affiliation, religion, sect or other beliefs, membership in associations, foundations or trade unions, health and other private matters. However, it allows for the exchange of such private data among state organs if deemed necessary for intelligence activities conducted to ensure national security and national defense or for the prevention or prosecution of crime.

There are concerns that intelligence organizations such as the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) as well as the General Staff, the Gendarmerie General Command and the National Police Department may categorize people according to race, political affiliation, belief, religion or sect based on this exception.

The Turkish government is willing to pay heed to the criticism voiced by the EU. Government officials note that a number of revisions may be introduced to the bill during negotiations in Parliament, but they have not specified the scope of these revisions.

On the other hand, the members of the EU Harmonization Commission criticized the EU for being insincere about counterterrorism.

Alleging that EU member countries have refrained from supporting Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts, the commission said: “Many terrorists were accepted as political refugees by European countries. EU member countries allow terrorists to make TV broadcasts. Moreover, [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader] Abdullah Öcalan was caught with a Greek ID card. They should take concrete steps on these issues if they want our cooperation in counterterrorism.”

Ambassador Emie: There is a slowdown in the process

Another visitor to the parliamentary EU Harmonization Commission was French Ambassador to Turkey Bernard Emie, who complained about the sluggishness of Turkey’s reform process. “After the preliminary preparations are completed, negotiations will start. But, things go slowly on the Turkish side. Bureaucracy, too, slows things down. For the start of negotiations, steps must be taken on six chapters in particular,” he said. Commission Chairman Yaşar Yakış and Öymen noted that when the currently open chapters are completed, there will remain nothing to negotiate about and asked whether the same method was followed in negotiations with other countries. “There are certain conditions. Turkey should do what is required from it. There is a slowdown,” said the French ambassador.

26 December 2008, Friday
ERCAN YAVUZ ANKARA

(Via Today’s Zaman, your gateway to Turkish news :: News.)

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