The European Union is extremely worried by Turkey’s arrest of Kurdish opposition lawmakers and has called a meeting of EU national envoys in Ankara, its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Friday (4 November).
Police raided the homes and detained the joint leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the second-biggest opposition party in the national parliament, and nine other HDP lawmakers on Friday after they refused to give testimony about alleged crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.
“We expect Turkey to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, and we are conveying these expectations directly to the Turkish authorities,” Mogherini said in a statement with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. The arrests compromised Turkey’s parliamentary democracy, they said.
Police raided the houses of Figen Yuksekdag, HDP co-chairwoman, in Ankara, and Selahattin Demirtas, the other party leader, in Diyarbakir, a party spokeswoman told Reuters.
The EU is engaged in a delicate stage of its relationship with its big, Muslim neighbour. Since an agreement in March, Ankara has helped to all but end a flow of refugees and migrants to the EU via Turkey and Greece, although tens of thousands continue to arrive from North Africa via Italy.
In return, the EU is providing aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, has pledged to revive Ankara’s long-stalled membership talks with the bloc and, significantly, promised to ease travel visa terms for Turks visiting Europe.
This latter concession, long on the table, has been delayed by disputes over whether Turkey has met a set of requirements that include modifying anti-terrorism laws. Turkey’s security crackdown after a coup attempt in July has alarmed EU leaders and further pushed back a final deal on the visa liberalisation.
With elections looming over the next year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where anti-immigration parties are doing well and oppose easing visas for Turks, diplomats say that Brussels is in no hurry to push Turkey into meeting the requirements to complete the deal — especially since the flow of refugees remains at limited, manageable levels.
However, there is concern in Brussels that hardline tactics in Ankara could generate reactions that destabilise a state which the EU sees a buffer between it and the Middle East.
Recent arrests of Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey constitutes a source of “serious concern” for France, foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said on Friday.
“France calls on Turkey to respect “the rule of law and fundamental rights” including democracy and freedom of the press, he told reporters in a daily briefing.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday summoned the Turkish charge d’affaires over Turkey’s arrests of Kurdish opposition lawmakers, foreign ministry officials said.
“The overnight arrests of politicians and lawmakers from the Kurdish HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) represent a further drastic intensification of the situation in the eyes of the foreign minister,” ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told a government news conference.
She said that Ankara had a right to respond to a failed coup attempt last July and to fight terrorism. “But this cannot be a justification for silencing or even imprisoning the political opposition,” Chebli added.
Turkey’s detention or suspension of more than 110,000 officials since a failed coup in July, including the arrest of pro-Kurdish lawmakers on Friday, may go “beyond what is permissible”, the United Nations’ human rights office said today.
“We are concerned that while they have declared a state of emergency and they have declared derogation of certain principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the steps that the authorities are taking go beyond what is permissible in these cases,” UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a regular briefing in Geneva.