Friday, January 22, 2010

EU parliament debate dominated by Kurdish party ban


By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Strasbourg - Last Wednesday the European parliament had a formal debate "on the democratization process in Turkey" in Strasbourg. EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said the debate ‘focused largely on the party closure and rightly so’.

During the debate, especially members of the socialist GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament made a protest about the Turkish authorities' decision not allowing Osman Baydemir to travel abroad, and against the ban of the Kurdish DTP party.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Affairs Olli Rehn argued that’s very important that Turkey reform its legislation and the whole constitutional legal framework of political parties in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. He also praised the AKP-government for continuing the democratic opening.

Ban undermines solution

The liberal MEP Sarah Ludford agreed there is a need for a ‘substantial reform of the constitution’, but she criticized the government. “Commissioner Rehn talked about several mayors and DTP politicians being arrested, but my information is that about 1 200 activists are in prison, including members of the BDP party, which has succeeded the DTP. I am not clear at all how the Government intends to strengthen its democratic opening in this context. Who is calling the shots on these arrests?”

"While they might perceive narrow political advantage in the blow to an electoral rival, the ban completely undermines the search, to which they say they are attached, for a durable Kurdish political settlement within Turkey which would end the violence and misery, and indeed the attraction of the PKK," Ludford argued.

Democracy not lost

Socialist MEP Richard Howitt acknowledged that the closure of political parties was opposed by the Turkish PM and that his government plans to prevent further unwarranted closures by bringing the Constitution into line with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. “These promises must be realised.”

“But it is difficult for any of us to reconcile Turkey’s call for guerrillas to come down from the mountains with the fact that other members of the same community who have chosen the path of democracy are then shown lined up in handcuffs and marched into jail. Between 700 and 1 000 of the party’s members are reported to be imprisoned, many for simply speaking their own language in public,” Howitt said

Howitt declared the EU should regret the jailing of Kurdish MPS. “In our Parliament, as in theirs, the reason that we have parliamentary immunity is so that we as representatives of the people can speak out without fear.” Finally Howitt argued, that a ‘party whose Turkish name translates as the ‘Democratic Society Party’ is gone, but its aim of a democratic society in a modern Turkey must not be lost’.

Next week on the 26th and 27th of January, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will adopt the "2009 Report on EU-Turkey accession process". It’s likely the report will criticized the ban of the pro-Kurdish party and will call on Turkey to implement more constitutional reforms. In February there will be a conference on Turkey, EU and the Kurds organized by the EUTTC in the European parliament (Photo: DIHA).

© Rudaw