EU 'deeply concerned' over move to close HDP, questions Ankara's 'commitment to reforms'

The European Union said on March 18 that it was 'deeply concerned" over the attempt to close the HDP, saying the move “undermines the credibility of the Turkish authorities’ stated commitment to reforms.” Germany also spoke against the crackdown on the HDP, saying it casts doubt on the rule of law in Turkey.

This file photo from 2020 shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the European Council building in Brussels.

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The European Union on March 18 slammed Turkish authorities for attempting to close the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and for expelling HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from parliament, saying such moves add to the bloc's concerns regarding the “backsliding of rights” in Turkey.

“Closing the second-largest opposition party would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and Oliver Varhelyi, the EU enlargement commissioner said in a joint statement.

“It adds to the EU’s concerns regarding the backsliding in fundamental rights in Turkey and undermines the credibility of the Turkish authorities’ stated commitment to reforms.”

“As an EU candidate country and a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey urgently needs to respect its core democratic obligations, including respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Germany also spoke out against the steps taken against the HDP, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying that efforts to dissolve the party cast doubt on the rule of law in Turkey.

"A party ban can only be the very last resort in a democracy. The case of HDP raises considerable doubt on proportionality," said the spokesman.

Gergerlioğlu's expulsion from parliament, as well as "criminal proceedings against numerous MPs and members of the HDP are all part of a development that calls into question the rule of law in Turkey," he added.

Former Greek Prime Minister and leader of Syriza Alexis Tsipras and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde have voiced their solidarity with the HDP and Gergerlioğlu. 

"I express my full solidarity with Gergerlioğlu and HDP headquarters. More important than ever to protect freedom of expression, parliamentary democracy and human rights, in Turkey and wherever they are undermined," Tsipras tweeted, while also using the hashtag "Solidarity With Gergerlioglu And HDP."

Linde said she was "deeply concerned about measures against the political opposition and its representatives in Turkey, including requests to dissolve the HDP, and the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of MP Gergerlioğlu." 

The United States also similarly condemned Ankara's crackdown on the HDP, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying the move “would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deny millions of Turkish citizens their chosen representation.”

A top Turkish prosecutor filed a case with the constitutional court on March 17 demanding the closure of the HDP, in the culmination of a years-long clampdown on parliament's third largest party.

Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties which it regards as a threat and has in the past banned a series of other pro-Kurdish parties.

The HDP had recently come under intensified pressure, with nationalist allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) calling for it to be banned over alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

That has coincided with falling poll support for the AKP and its nationalist allies as Erdoğan's government battles the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections are not scheduled until 2023.

The HDP said prosecutors acted on political orders and accused the ruling AKP of shaping politics through the courts.

"The closure case launched against our party is a heavy blow to democracy and law," the HDP said in a statement, adding that its "determined struggle for democratic politics" would continue.