Turkish President Vetoes Reforms in EU Package

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said on Monday he had vetoed some legislation passed by parliament to boost EU membership prospects because it could pose what he called a threat to the state’s existence.

Parliament can override Sezer’s objections to changes to the Anti-Terrorism Law it approved earlier this month–but the veto is a setback for Turkey’s efforts to apply EU human rights standards in time to open membership talks in late 2004.

Sezer opposed removing a section of the law banning separatist propaganda that has long been used to jail leftists and Kurdish academics and radicals. Turkey has fought a decades-long war against Kurdish separatists in its impoverished southeast at the cost of some 30,000 lives–most of them Kurds.

"There is a strong possibility that the removal will create important dangers to the existence of the Turkish state and the indivisible unity of the state with its country and people," Sezer said in a lengthy statement.

Sezer–a former judge–said the change would leave a loophole and deprive the judiciary of an important legal tool.

The European Union and human rights groups have often criticized measures to suppress what Ankara sees as threats to national unity. The EU welcomed parliament’s reforms.

Turkey’s generals–who wield great influence over public life–and many politicians fear relaxing anti-terror laws could lead to a resurgence of violence that has largely subsided since the 1999 capture of Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Another piece of legislation Sezer vetoed paved the way for the release of some suspects facing trial under the section on separatist propaganda.

Parliament can override Sezer’s veto with a second vote on the legislation–something it has done frequently in the past. But the president reserves the right to challenge laws in Turkey’s constitutional court.

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