EP rapporteur Oomen-Ruijten praises Ak Party move to amend constitution
European Union Turkey rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten said she is pleased with an evolving package of changes to Turkey's Constitution by the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Speaking following a meeting in Brussels with representatives of several political groups in the European Parliament and Turkey's chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis, Oomen-Ruijten said: "I was very pleased to hear news of the constitutional amendment package. I don't want to go into detail regarding its content; the content should be debated by all of the political parties in Turkey. I hope that not just the AK Party but that the opposition parties also do their best to prepare their own proposals." She said Turkish constitutional reforms would definitely have a positive effect on Turkey's relations with the European Union. "If Turkey wants to be a modern, prosperous country, then it must carry out such reforms. But this can and must be done together with the opposition parties," she added. "There must be cooperation over the package's content." She also said such changes must ensure an independent, unbiased judiciary. Bagis emphasized in his own remarks to the press after the gathering in Brussels that Turkey cannot become an EU member with its current Constitution. "It's high time for Turkey to come together with a constitution that all of its citizens will be able to call their own and that embraces all of its citizens," he said. Bagis also remarked on the AK Party seeking the input of opposition parties, saying: "This draft isn't a sacred text; of course it's open to differing opinions and ideas. We hope the opposition parties will forward their own constitutional packages that include their own hopes for and vision of Turkey, and begin a negotiation process. We're ready to reach consensus with them and hear their ideas." Should the opposition be willing to work on this issue, the AK Party is open to recommendations to ensure that Turkey will emerge more transparent, more democratic and more prosperous, he said. In related news, government representatives, including Deputy Premiers Cemil Cicek and Bulent Arinc, yesterday continued talks with unions, business organizations and political parties not represented in Parliament to garner support for the reform package. If the government is unable to pass the package in Parliament, it will likely go to a referendum.