Venice Commission urges Turkey to write ’unifying charter’



STRASBOURG – Turkey’s ruling and opposition parties should work together to redraft the country’s Constitution to ensure it becomes a tool for unification rather than division, according to a senior official of the Venice Commission.
“What is needed for a new constitution is a wide consensus. Both the drafting process and other spheres should be inclusive and made through dialogue. We don’t want a constitution solely reflecting the AKP’s [Justice and Development Party] or any other party’s views,” Secretary of the Venice Commission Thomas Markett told a press conference late last week.
The Venice Commission advises countries mainly on constitutional matters and was founded by the Council of Europe in the early 1990s to help newly independent countries adapt their charters to European constitutional models.
Markett said a delegation from the commission was slated to visit Turkey on Nov. 25 and 26 to discuss reshaping the Constitution, which has already seen reforms in the procedures of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, following the Sept. 12 referendum.
“We understand there is a consensus for a new constitution. Among the reasons we have observed is the character of the current text, which is based on distrust toward citizens and civil society,” Markett said.
“[The current constitution carries] a sort of guardianship approach and gives power to institutions like the military and the judiciary,” he said, adding that the most important requirement of the reform process is the creation of a document that reflects a European approach to fundamental freedoms.
While calling on the ruling AKP to cooperate with opposition parties, Markett also urged opposition parties not to oppose reform proposals out of hand. “Both sides are needed for this constitution, and this new document should give the emphasis on a united country and not a divided country,” he said.
Unchangeable articles

Markett said the Venice Commission was “skeptical” about recent arguments in Turkey saying the first three articles of the current Constitution cannot be altered because a clause in the document forbids doing so.
“Looking at the issue from the perspective of social needs and future generations, we cautiously look at this extreme [reticence],” he said. According to Markett there is no problem in enshrining the secular nature of the state in the constitution, but doing so should not restrict the protection of personal freedoms.
Turkey seeks opinion

Markett also said the Turkish Justice Ministry has sought the opinion of the Venice Commission on how to harmonize legislation following the referendum. The commission is set to propose recommendations on how the right of individual applications should be formulated in the yet-to-be drafted law. Markett said Turkish and commission officials would discuss these issues during the commission’s visit.
“Basically, the Venice Commission thinks the referendum is a step forward. It is not an ideal solution but is better than past experiences,” he said.

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