19th Mar 2018

MEPs say Turkish president undermines democracy

MEPs have accused Turkish politicians of undermining the rule of law by stripping the immunity of 138 MPs who are under investigation, in a move that could result in prosecution for parliamentarians critical of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In their first debate on the issue on Wednesday (8 June), MEPs from all political groups criticised the Turkish authorities and accused Erdogan of trying to "silence the opposition and grab more powers".

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During the debate, with the EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn, they called on Turkey to respect the rule of law and freedom of expression and to protect minority rights.

Centre-right MEP Renate Sommer said Turkey was now becoming a "presidential dictatorship". Gabi Zimmer, leader of the leftist GUE group, said she was "flabbergasted that it is possible in Europe to create such a climate of fear and intimidation".

The immunity of the MPs was lifted on 20 May through a reform of the constitution adopted by a parliament dominated by Erdogan's supporters. As a consequence, 138 MPs including 50 deputies from the pro-Kurdish HDP party could be prosecuted for criticising Erdogan or charged with supporting terrorism.

Erdogan signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

On 20 May, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said the vote was "a blow to Turkish democracy and political freedom". He added that "the gulf with European norms and values is widening".

Speaking to MEPs on Wednesday, commissioner Hahn said lifting immunity should be "based on transparent criteria, not political considerations".

He said that the rule of law was the basis of Turkey's political and economic progress and asked Erdogan to show whether he was "serious or not" in wanting to bring his country closer to Europe.

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