S&D says EU should suspend talks with Turkey after referendum

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S&D President Gianni Pittella

Gianni Pittella, president of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, has described the result of a public referendum held in Turkey on Sunday as “another harsh blow against democracy and the rule of law in Turkey,” calling on the EU to suspend membership talks with the country.

Turkey held a public referendum on Sunday during which a constitutional reform package introducing an executive presidency in Turkey was approved by 51.3 percent of the electorate.

“Another harsh blow against democracy and rule of law has been dealt in Turkey. This is yet another decisive step away from Europe. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has closed his doors to the EU with this referendum. The EU accession talks should be suspended once Turkey decides to implement the 18 constitutional amendments,” Pittella in a press statement on Monday.

Pittela also talked about alleged irregularities during the voting process, saying that they may cast a shadow over the final outcome.

“Many irregularities across the whole of Turkey have been alleged; irregularities that may cast a shadow on the final outcome. We, therefore, are looking forward to the official assessment by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) / Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) International Observation Mission,” he said.

“We remain convinced that the majority of Turkish citizens are still looking at democracy and rule of law as crucial benchmarks. Unfortunately, Erdoğan is increasingly turning Turkey into a personal authoritarian regime.”

In January, Turkey’s Parliament passed the constitutional amendments later approved by Erdoğan that would transform the political order into an executive-style presidential system, effectively widening the scope of powers of the position.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

Parliament’s approval paved the way for a nationwide referendum on the amendments.

“The S&D Group will do whatever it takes to reinforce democracy and rule of law against the authoritarian drift carried out by the Erdoğan. Nevertheless, the S&D Group requests the Council to envisage all the necessary measures in order to suspend the EU accession talks with Turkey. Europe cannot turn a blind eye and remain silent – and Europe will not.”

S&D MEP Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, also expressed her disappointment with the referendum result in a press statement on Monday.

“This is a sad day for all democrats in Turkey. In an unfair election environment a very narrow majority has endorsed a constitutional change that will give President Erdoğan unchecked powers. With such a constitution, Turkey cannot join the EU.

“As rapporteur, I’ll continue to stand by all those fighting for democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey. Today’s outcome shows there are millions of Turkish citizens who share the same European values and who chose a different future for their country. The EU should never close the door to them,” she said.

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