Turkish Government Backtracks Proposed Changes to 'Olive Law'

The draft proposal which the government claimed was to support the development of industry and production was highly criticized by the olive oil industry and opposition parties and as it threatened the country’s olive oil production.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Jun. 6, 2017 08:06 UTC

The Turkish press has reported the government’s with­drawn of some of the pro­posed changes to The Olive Law” which pro­tects Turkey’s olive groves fol­low­ing wide­spread resis­tance from olive farm­ers, envi­ron­men­tal­ists and oppo­si­tion par­ties.

The gov­ern­men­t’s pro­posed changes to the law reduced the pro­tec­tion afforded to olive pro­duc­ers by allow­ing indus­trial facil­i­ties and mines to be con­structed on olive groves.
See Also:Turkey’s Olive Trees Threatened by Draft Law
The draft pro­posal which the gov­ern­ment claimed was to sup­port the devel­op­ment of indus­try and pro­duc­tion was highly crit­i­cized by the olive oil indus­try and oppo­si­tion par­ties who dubbed the move a death war­rant for olive groves,” that cleared the way for the clear­ing of groves to make way for mines, other indus­tries, and hous­ing com­plexes.

Local com­mu­ni­ties, the gen­eral pub­lic and asso­ci­a­tions includ­ing the National Olive and Olive Oil Council and The Friends of The Olive Association expressed their oppo­si­tion at sem­i­nars, protests and on social media. The most pub­lic activ­ity was a peti­tion launched by The Friends of Olives Association” (Zeytindostu Derneği) enti­tled Don’t touch my olive tree.” The orga­niz­ers aimed to col­lect one mil­lion sig­na­tures against the pro­posed draft.

However, Haluk Yurtkuran, co-founder, and pres­i­dent of Adatepe Olive Oil and an Olive Oil Museum in the Çanakkale province of Turkey told Olive Oil Times the draft has not been pulled back as reported in the main­stream press.

Yurtkuran explained, This draft law is com­posed of dif­fer­ent arti­cles each relat­ing dif­fer­ent aspects of enhanc­ing indus­trial zones for stim­u­lat­ing indus­tri­al­iza­tion in the coun­try. And it is still in the nego­ti­a­tion process in the rel­e­vant com­mis­sions in the assem­bly.

After lob­by­ing by the NGOs and the pub­lic opin­ion lead­ers, the com­mis­sion had to drop a few arti­cles such as restrict­ing touris­tic and hous­ing con­struc­tions, as well as the num­ber of olive trees that con­sti­tutes a pro­tected grove.

The arti­cle which was sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment on May 17th would have meant that any olive grove with less than 15 trees per decare would not be con­sid­ered an olive grove and was vul­ner­a­ble to being seized by devel­op­ers ruin­ing the liveli­hoods of many small farm­ers.

According to Yurtkuran, The more crit­i­cal arti­cle 4 remains unchanged relat­ing to indus­trial build­ings, mines, and power plants could be estab­lished within 3 Km prox­im­ity to olive groves if there is a pub­lic ben­e­fit on the project. This pub­lic ben­e­fit would be approved by a com­mit­tee headed by the gov­er­nor (a non-elected appointee of the gov­ern­ment), rep­re­sen­ta­tives from trade and indus­trial cham­bers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the min­istry of econ­omy, indus­try, and agri­cul­ture.”

The law as it stands pro­hibits the estab­lish­ment of any indus­trial facil­ity other than an olive oil pro­duc­tion unit on olives groves and within three kilo­me­ters. The pro­posed bill would have dis­posed of this safety net.

The amend­ment would also have abol­ished the three-month prison term handed down to peo­ple caught graz­ing ani­mals on olive groves and replaced the prison term with a fine of 5,000 Turkish Lira ($1,418). The step back from the gov­ern­ment on this resulted in a pledge to increase the prison term from three to six months.

The lat­est pro­posal also increases the fine for those found unlaw­fully cut­ting down olive trees from 2,000 Turkish Lira ($560) to 4,000 Turkish Lira ($1,120).

Lobbyists against the bill have expressed hope that con­tin­ued pres­sure may force the arti­cle to be dropped dur­ing nego­ti­a­tions of the draft in the gen­eral assem­bly.

Don’t touch my olive tree” has col­lected almost 30,000 sig­na­ture on Change.org.


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