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Sarah speaks to the European Parliament about democratisation in Turkey

January 22, 2010 3:00 PM
By Sarah Ludford in European Parliament

Sarah Ludford (ALDE). - Madam President, many of the reforms we constantly call for in Turkey come together in the saga of the repeated closure of Kurdish political parties, of which that of the DTP last month is only the latest.

The continued failure to reform the Constitution, the Law on Political Parties and the judiciary, as well as the continued involvement of the military in politics all influence the context in which Kurdish democratic political representation is repeatedly sabotaged. These closures also sabotage the democratic opening launched last year by the Erdoğan Government, which was, rightly, widely welcomed. The only way to get a durable settlement to the Kurdish question in Turkey is through a political solution, and that is the best way to combat the PKK.

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? I have heard it said - I think it was by Richard Howitt - that Prime Minister Erdoğan did condemn the DTP closure, although I confess I missed that development. A cynic might say that, electorally, it suits the AKP party rather well to have the DTP closed, as they are electoral rivals in the south-east.

I agree with those like Mrs in 't Veld and Mrs Flautre that a solid and reliable assurance to Turkey that it will join the EU, if it meets the Copenhagen criteria, is the best leverage we have for democratisation in Turkey - though they owe it to themselves, too. Turkey is an important country that has many great assets. It needs and deserves democracy.

Finally, I add my own thanks to Commissioner Rehn for all he has done for enlargement in the last five years, not only concerning Turkey but - also close to my heart - the Western Balkans. I look forward to welcoming him soon in his new portfolio.