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January 27, 2013, Sunday

Major changes to Turkish law in 2012

Looking back, I feel as though 2012 flew by so quickly, or maybe I feel that way because I am getting older.

You know the theory “time goes quicker as you get older.” This should be mathematically correct and please correct me if I am wrong. If you are only a one-day-old baby, the whole day would seem like a lifetime. When you are a 1 year old; one day is already 1/365 of your life so it elapses relatively faster.

For me, the year went very quickly but looking at the performance of Parliament, which was eager to make laws, sub legislation and decrees, they did quite a lot in a very short time. In some cases, instead of making real laws which are clear to everyone, Parliament chose to make a law giving the authority to the Council of Ministers to regulate the matter later on.

Whether the government has the vast majority of the seats in Parliament or not, it is much easier to regulate things amongst the members of the Council of Ministers, who apparently are the most dedicated people in the governing political party. Having this power, the government, indirectly through the Council of Ministers, can easily make regulations which may affect daily life. I do not agree with this type of assignment of powers to a limited number of people who can make rules faster, easier and customize them.

Indiscriminately opposing everything is a great mistake for any opposition. This kind of opposition may end up eliminating the opposition itself. Opposition should be made with care and certain decisions, actions, operations or policies of the governing party should be appreciated if they deserve such appreciation.

To sum up, the method of delegating some powers to the Council of Ministers is sometimes useful. In cases which need fast action, it is a must or at least something which should be considered. I cannot say the same for all matters, though. For the sake of objectiveness, I will not give any examples regarding this matter.

If I may go back to my topic, there were many amendments to the Turkish legal system during 2012. Considering the topic to be central in respect to Turkey's relations with the rest of the globe, I will touch on some of the most important ones from those amendments.

One of the amendments is that Turkey revoked the reciprocity rule on the purchase of property for foreigners in Turkey. Before this amendment, foreigners were not allowed to purchase property in Turkey if Turkish citizens were not able to purchase property in that country. With this amendment, the restrictive reciprocity rule has been quashed and some other restrictions have become more lax. Thereby, investments have increased, giving strength to Turkish relations with other countries without being dependent on reciprocity rules.

Another amendment was to the Law on Basic Provisions on Elections and the Voter List in 2012. There are millions of Turkish citizens living abroad and before this amendment, citizens living abroad had to come to Turkey to participate in the elections. With the amendment, the possibility of voting at Turkish consulates abroad has been provided to these citizens. Of course, this is an important development for democratic participation.

Turkey is located in an earthquake zone and there have been many large-scale earthquakes. To make provision against damage caused by earthquakes, many resolutions were adopted. One of them is the Disaster Insurances Law and with an amendment to this law, it is intended that compulsory earthquake insurance will become more effective. According to the amendment, title deed offices will seek to ensure that transactions are not carried out unless properties are properly insured for earthquakes.

Surely, the most important change is the new Turkish Commercial Code coming into force in 2012. One of the basic changes is the definition of minority rights granted to the minority group shareholders in companies. With the new law, minority rights have been expanded and minority group shareholders have more opportunities to be represented on a company's board.

The other amendment is to do with transparency of companies. With this amendment, any kind of information related to the company and audit reports will be accessible to related third parties.

Parliament, as I said, made thousands of regulations last year but these are the ones of utmost importance in my opinion. I hope that 2013 will be a better year. Looking at the deaths that are occurring, I might be engaged in wishful thinking.

NOTE: Berk Çektir is a Turkish lawyer and available to answer questions on the legal aspects of living and doing business in Turkey. Please send inquiries to [email protected] If a sender's letter is published, names may be disclosed unless otherwise expressly stated by the sender.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to give basic legal information. You should get legal assistance from a licensed attorney at law while conducting legal transactions and not rely solely on the information in this column.

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