What does Turkey's new Internet law mean for its EU aspirations?

Turkish activists and the European Union are applying pressure on President Abdullah Gul to veto a recently-passed Internet censorship law. Turkey has long aspired to join the club of European democracies.

Nazim Serhat Firat/Reuters
Riot police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Internet censorship in Istanbul February 8, 2014. Police fired water cannon and teargas to disperse hundreds of people protesting in central Istanbul on Saturday against new controls on the Internet approved by parliament this week.

Passage of an Internet censorship law in Turkey sparked violent protests this weekend and is highlighting Ankara’s receding interest in joining the European Union. (The Christian Science Monitor has a full take on the law here.)

Under the Turkish system, the president has a chance to veto the parliament-approved law. Both Turkish activists and the European Union are applying pressure on President Abdullah Gul to do just that.

However, his political allies, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backed the law to gain greater control over the media in the midst of a burgeoning corruption scandal and ahead of local elections in March, our Turkey correspondent says. In this context, the incentive to stay on the path to EU accession is getting drowned out by more pressing concerns of Turkey’s ruling politicians.

“They basically feel like they’re fighting for their necks because they’ve been accused of very serious corruption. If the government were to [fall], there’s every chance that you could see these guys on trial within a few months. So I think the gloves are really off and they are prepared to do anything they feel they have to do to keep control of the political agenda,” says our correspondent in Istanbul. “I’d say as early as this week [President Gul] will decide on it. And I think it’s unlikely that he will veto it.”

The European Union holds some amount of suasion over Ankara in the form of Turkey’s long pursuit of membership.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Frontier Markets.

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