Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unyielding in the face of European Union calls for his Islamic conservative government to soften anti-terrorism laws over concerns that they are too broad and could be used to muzzle political opponents.
Despite threatening to undermine a deal with the European Union to stem the flow of illegal immigration – in exchange for billions of euros in financial aid and visa-free E.U. travel for Turks – a spokesman for the Turkish president on Wednesday told reporters in Ankara that weakening the laws would “encourage terror organizations” and was “out of the question.”
Rather than compromise, President Erdogan is hardening his stance ahead of a Friday vote in Turkey’s parliament to strip immunity status from a quarter of parliamentarians. The proposed action mainly threatens members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, who could face terrorism charges under a loose legal definition.
German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, in an interview with the newspaper Die Süddeutsche on Thursday, accussed Mr. Erdogan of “autocratic ambitions” and of initiating a “whole series of events with which Turkey is further distancing itself from our standards of democracy.”
Mr. Lammert, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said the Turkish president’s latest attack on the country’s parliamentary and democratic structures could only be successful if “the parliament were prepared to go down the path of self-empowerment.” He warned that now was the time to show “self-assertion.”
In the same interview, Bundestag Vice President Johannes Singhammer, said Mr. Erdogan is “crossing the Rubicon” with his plans to lift immunity. Given this situation, he added, the European Union cannot approve visa-free travel for Turks.