November 13, 2015

EU says strict legal rules, unanimity required to list a group as terrorist

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn's spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic has said any decision to list terrorist entities at the EU level must be based on elements that match the legal requirements and the definition of terrorism, while unanimity is needed among all member states.

She also said terrorist acts set out in the “common position” will be among the determining factors of whether the EU lists an entity or a person as terrorist.

The common position is a legal instruments used by the European Council to define a European foreign policy towards a particular third-country as part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. A common position which is subject to revisions is binding on all EU members states once approved, requiring all members to follow and defend the policy.

Responding to a question by Today's Zaman, Kocijancic clarified how the EU moves forward in including an entity or person on the terrorism list, saying, “Any decision to list terrorist entities at the EU level is taken by the Council acting upon the unanimity of the 28 member states.”

“Therefore, any formal request should be made to the Council of the EU,” Kocijancic underlined.

“In addition, there are also specific legal requirements [set out in Common Position 2001/931] for the Council to list a person or entity under EU sanctions to combat terrorism,” she explained, adding that “a decision must be taken first by a competent national authority [a judicial body or an administrative body subject to judicial review] to list or proscribe that entity. That decision can come from an EU member state or a third state.”

“The decision taken by the competent national authority must be based on elements that match the legal requirements and the definition of terrorism and terrorist acts set out in the Common Position,” Kocijancic noted.

Her comments came against the background of recent remarks by Turkey's interim European Union Affairs Minister and chief negotiator Beril Dedeoğlu, who said she expects a common action from EU countries in line with the Turkish government against the Gülen movement and that the EU should include the movement on its list of terrorist organizations.

The Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has over the last several years been at war with the civic movement inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Gülen, a vocal critic of corruption in the government, became the target of a witch-hunt by the AK Party government in the aftermath of a major corruption investigation that implicated senior ministers as well as the family members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Right after the corruption investigation went public with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan accused police officers, judges and prosecutors of a “coup attempt” and claimed that they were linked to the Gülen movement, which he branded a “parallel state.” Gülen strongly denied his involvement in the investigation and the government has so far failed to present any evidence to back up its claims.

Dedeoğlu's off-the-cuff demand of the EU to place the peaceful movement, which focuses on science education, charity, and interfaith and intercultural dialogue, seem easier said than done, considering how the process works in the EU bureaucracy.

Ironically, Dedeoğlu had been writing for Today's Zaman, an English-language daily seen as close to the Gülen movement, since the newspaper was established in 2007. She stopped writing a column for Today's Zaman on Sept. 22 after she became the EU affairs minister of the interim government.

In the meantime, a diplomatic source in the Turkish capital has categorically denied that the EU proposed to water down criticism in its Progress Report on Turkey if Turkey cooperates more closely over the refugee issue, as alleged by Dedeoğlu.

“This is not true at all,” the source told Today's Zaman in Ankara, stressing that no link was made by the commission officials during talks with the Turkish minister.

“They [EU officials] said something like ‘We could soften the content of this progress report if we sort out the refugee issue,' Dedeoğlu claimed while commenting on the EU Progress Report.

The source said Dedeoğlu's recollection of the conversation was faulty. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 November 2015, Friday