Turkey Removes Controversial Article in 'Olive Law'

While the decision was welcomed, olive oil industry leaders fear the issue will crop up again.

Jun. 15, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

Recent News

The Turkish parliament’s indus­try com­mis­sion announced ear­lier this week that it had removed a highly con­tro­ver­sial arti­cle which would have given the green light for olive groves to be ousted by indus­trial facil­i­ties if deemed to be in pub­lic inter­est.”

Two things are not touched in this coun­try; a dove, and an olive.- M. Saki̇r Basak, Konak District Chairman

The country’s three main polit­i­cal par­ties reached an agree­ment to remove the indus­trial pro­duc­tion package’s sec­ond arti­cle, which related to invest­ments in olive groves. The pro­posed changes to the Olive Law” would have reduced the legal pro­tec­tion of olive trees by re-clas­si­fy­ing olive groves with less than 15 trees per decare (1,000 square meters) as open fields. The draft paved the way for indus­trial units, mines and hous­ing projects to dis­place ancient olive groves.

Ziya Altunyaldız, deputy and com­mis­sion head of the Ruling Justice and Development Party told Hurriyet Daily News, We took the opin­ions of all seg­ments within a plu­ral­is­tic democ­racy men­tal­ity and reached con­sen­sus as the three party groups. As a result, we decided to remove the olive grove arti­cle from the indus­trial reform draft law.”

While the deci­sion has been wel­comed, olive grow­ers and lead­ers from the olive oil indus­try fear that the issue may crop up again. This was not the first time that olive groves had been put at risk by the gov­ern­ment. Their fears appeared to be jus­ti­fied in a state­ment made by Faruk Özlü, sci­ence, indus­try and tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter, who con­firmed that the arti­cle could be reawak­ened.”

Özlü told Hurriyet Daily News, I want to express that we believe there is no fault in the sys­tem of the sec­ond arti­cle that we put for­ward. We have always expressed that we are open to alter­na­tive sug­ges­tions, but unfor­tu­nately, we did not receive any sug­ges­tion. The prob­lem is not solved by reject­ing it. There is a need for a struc­tur­ing that will take deci­sions regard­ing the def­i­n­i­tion of olive grove fields in Turkey no mat­ter what you say. This draft law may come again 20 times more as long as this need is not met.”

Haluk Yurtkuran, co-founder and pres­i­dent of Adatepe Olive Oil told Olive Oil Times, We must always be alert against any efforts from the indus­tri­al­ist lobby who will bring back the issue when­ever they feel con­fi­dent again. Our motto is; don’t relax, but stay alert like an olive tree’s life­time strug­gle against all dan­gers.”

A heated debate has raged for weeks over the con­tro­ver­sial draft law. Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim fuelled the debate with his com­ment, It has been pre­sented as if olive groves are being razed for con­struc­tion. That is wrong. Those who do not want Turkey to gain com­pet­i­tive power are engag­ing in this manip­u­la­tion.” He accused the oppo­si­tion of pre­sent­ing it in such a way that it is as if we destroyed olive groves.”


Olive grow­ers, envi­ron­men­tal­ists, and the gen­eral pub­lic voiced wide­spread oppo­si­tion through social media cam­paigns, protests and the launch of the Don’t touch my olive tree” peti­tion, which col­lected over 31,000 sig­na­tures.

Faruk Özlü, min­is­ter of sci­ence, indus­try, and tech­nol­ogy showed a more sym­pa­thetic stance on June 4th, when he announced, If I know that even one olive tree is going to be cut down because of this law, I will with­draw it.”

The gov­ern­ment back­tracked some­what amid the out­cry but not enough to appease oppo­nents who felt that a num­ber of key issues threat­en­ing Turkey’s olive groves remained.

Ümmühan Tibet, head of the National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK) crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for not tak­ing into account the organization’s opin­ions when prepar­ing the bill.

Yurtkuran told Olive Oil Times, We are all happy with drop­ping of the olive arti­cle from the draft in the com­mis­sion today. This is the joint suc­cess of all olive-lovers from var­i­ous wings of the soci­ety regard­less of their polit­i­cal pref­er­ences.”

He added, We must first thank the National Olive and Olive Oil Council’s strong stand­ing against this draft along with all pub­lic sup­port behind it.”

On June 7th Representatives from Turkey’s olive indus­try met with Faruk Çelik, the food, agri­cul­ture and live­stock min­is­ter and Faruk Özlü, the sci­ence, indus­try and tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter, in Ankara to demand that the olive reg­u­la­tion was omit­ted from the pro­duc­tion reform pack­age. The rep­re­sen­ta­tives insisted that the reg­u­la­tion was redrafted in con­sul­ta­tion with all par­ties or the exist­ing draft law was revised.

There are those who want to harm olive trees today,” wrote M. Şaki̇r Başak, the Konak District chair­man, in an opin­ion arti­cle.for the ben­e­fit, the profit, the ratios, as if they were to remain for­ever in the world, their eyes blinded, their spirit lost; They do not hes­i­tate to harm nature, man, and sacred­ness.”

Two things are not touched in this coun­try; a dove, and an olive.”

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