Turkey's Prime Minister Fuels 'Olive Law' Debate

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim appeared to support the proposed changes to the law that protects small groves in comments he made at a meeting on June 3rd.

Jun. 9, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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Hundreds of groves and the liveli­hoods of around 10 mil­lion peo­ple remain at risk as the future of Turkey’s olive trees is decided. Representatives from the olive indus­try met with high-rank­ing offi­cials on June 7th in their lat­est attempt to halt a highly con­tro­ver­sial draft law which crit­ics say puts pub­lic inter­est” above the pro­tec­tion of olive trees by allow­ing indus­trial facil­i­ties to encroach old groves.

Sometimes de facto sit­u­a­tions arise. There are facil­i­ties which are con­structed on for­mer olive groves. The sit­u­a­tion of those facil­i­ties has to be legal­ized.- Prime Minister Binali Yildirim

At the meet­ing in Ankara, olive indus­try lead­ers appealed to Faruk Çelik, the food, agri­cul­ture and live­stock min­is­ter and Faruk Özlü, Science, the indus­try and tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter for pro­posed changes to the Olive Law” aimed at reform­ing indus­trial pro­duc­tion, to be omit­ted or revised in con­sul­ta­tion with all par­ties. A final deci­sion is not expected until a meet­ing with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has taken place.
See Also: Turkish Government Backtracks Proposed Changes to Olive Law’
Yildirim appeared to sup­port the pro­posed changes to law with com­ments he made at a meet­ing on June 3rd: Sometimes de facto sit­u­a­tions arise. There are facil­i­ties which are con­structed on for­mer olive groves. The sit­u­a­tion of those facil­i­ties has to be legal­ized. If that grove is on an indus­trial con­struc­tion site, if there is no pos­si­bil­ity to engage in olive agri­cul­ture, the reg­u­la­tion allows the indus­try to use the fields it needs.”

Yildirim crit­i­cized objec­tions say­ing, 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. Compared to 2002, olive groves have grown, the olive pro­duc­tion has been raised to make Turkey sec­ond to Europe (in terms of pro­duc­tion).”

A more sym­pa­thetic stance was shown by Faruk Özlü, min­is­ter of sci­ence, indus­try and tech­nol­ogy on June 4th, when he announced that he would with­draw the con­tro­ver­sial olive tree draft if it harmed even one olive tree,” adding, If I know that even one olive tree is going to be cut down because of this law, I will with­draw it.”

We planted more than 71 mil­lion olive trees in the last 14 years. When we first took the rule, there were nearly 100 mil­lion olive trees across Turkey. This has now increased up to 171 mil­lion. Why should we destroy them? There will be no harm on olive groves,” Özlü said.

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Widespread oppo­si­tion from olive grow­ers, envi­ron­men­tal­ists, and the gen­eral pub­lic forced the Turkish Government to back­track some­what on their orig­i­nal pro­posed changes to Law 3573. A Don’t touch my olive tree” peti­tion organ­ised by The Friends of Olives Association (Zeytindostu Derneği) has amassed over 30,000 sig­na­tures and at the end of May, the gov­ern­ment with­drew a motion that would reduce the sta­tus of olive groves with fewer than 15 trees per decare (1,000 square metres) to mere fields.

This move has not appeased olive pro­duc­ers who feel that a num­ber of key points, includ­ing restric­tions relat­ing to indus­trial and min­ing facil­i­ties in and around olive groves, have not been addressed. An Olive Grove Preservation Board” has been set up to super­vise invest­ments in olive groves and report on invest­ment demands.

Ümmühan Tibet, head of the National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK) has crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for not tak­ing into account the organization’s opin­ions when prepar­ing the bill. Tibet believes that the Agriculture Ministry should have been respon­si­ble for draft­ing the olive bill which was drawn up by the Industry Ministry.

Tibet told Hurriyet Daily News, As UZZK, we are say­ing that once the bill passes, then it will cause irre­versible dam­age. It will have a blow on the olive sec­tor that has reached today’s level through many dif­fi­cul­ties. This bill will neg­a­tively affect future gen­er­a­tions.”

Tibet went on to cite the case of a mon­u­men­tal olive tree in the Izmir region of Turkey say­ing, Only a cou­ple of days ago we found an olive tree in Urla that was 2,310 years old. Imagine this tree was on land that was bought by a devel­oper. If that tree blocks his project, he can cut it down.”

In an ironic twist, Istanbul’s Taksim Square gained five new olive trees as part of a recent facelift.



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