Turkey's EU Minister Defends New Internet Bill

Ankara - Turkey's European Union minister has told senior EU officials that an internet bill was passed by parliament to clamp down on privacy violations, not to crackdown on freedom of speech, as some critics have claimed.

"The right to privacy is the most fundamental one after the right to live," said Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday. "We cited to the EU that it is, and should be protected by law both in real and virtual life."

The bill enables the Telecommunication Presidency to block any internet material deemed offensive within four hours of it appearing. A court then meets within 48 hours to decide if the ban be continued.

Turkey's main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, described the bill Friday as "a ban on the freedom of speech" and said it had no place in the 21st Century.

The EU minister was speaking after a meeting between Turkey's top diplomat Ahmet Davutoglu, the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, and Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton to discuss relations between the union and Turkey.

Fule - after meeting with Turkish ministers Monday - said that Turkey should engage more closely with the EU regarding the recent amendments to its internet laws and proposed changes to the judiciary.

Turkey's chief negotiator, Cavusoglu said they were ready to compare the judiciary system proposal with EU legislation, but for now it was on hold due to discussions between the ruling AK Party and the opposition.

Speaking later at a Europe Turkish Democrats Union meeting, Cavusoglu said preconceived notions in Europe created Islamophobia, xenophobia and discrimination.

He said Turkey expects further steps to be taken with regard to EU membership in 2014, and new chapters to be opened following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's January visit to Brussels.

Following the meeting, Enlargement Commissioner Fule also praised Turkey's support on re-launching the Cyprus unification talks.

Talks between Turkish and Greek sides of the long-divided Mediterranean island are due to start Tuesday.

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