Europe’s MEPs have criticised the Turkish parliament’s decision to remove the immunity from prosecution of 138 of its members, saying that the decision “undermines the rule of law.”
In a debate with Johannes Hahn, EU Enlargement Commissioner, EU MEPs described the decision as “an attempt by Turkey’s President Erdoğan to silence the opposition and grab more powers.” Adding that the “decision undermines the rule of law and freedom of expression and might harm EU-Turkey relations.”
While still claiming that the EU is “demonstrably willing to re-energise its engagement with Turkey”, Commissioner Hahn added that relations with Turkey cannot be a one way street. Pointing to the various ways in which the EU has delivered “political and financial support” to Turkey, Hahn suggested that there have been serious setbacks affecting the rule of law and freedom of expression situation in Turkey which the EU could not approve of.
Lawmakers from the governing party forced through amendments to Turkey’s constitution which will effectively allow members of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to be prosecuted for ties to Kurdish militants who have frequently been the cause of terrorist attacks on Turkish soil.
However, MEPs have criticised the move, claiming that it is likely to lead to Kurdish deputies being forced out of parliament.
The debate leading up to the decision has proven particularly fractious for the Turkish parliament’s deputies, at one point even erupting into a fight in Parliament that dislocated the shoulder of a deputy. 376 out of 550 deputies voted in a secret ballot to enshrine the constitutional amendment additionally meaning there will be no public referendum.
President Erdoğan began the incendiary debate over stripping the 138 deputies of their immunity when he called for members of the HDP to face prosecution for ties to Kurdish militants.
MEPs from all European political groups and parties have joined together to criticise the Turkish parliament and Erdoğan’s decision, calling on Turkey to “respect the rule of law and freedom of expression and to protect minority rights.”
Some MEPs described the Turkish parliament’s decision as an attempt by President Erdoğan to silence opposition, change the constitution, and increase presidential powers, which they said, runs counter to Turkey’s EU accession responsibility to ensure the stability of institutions.