MESOP FLASH : European Parliament approves ‘Gezi Park’ motion

ANF – BRUSSELS 14.06.2013 – On the last day of the Strasbourg plenary session from 10 to 13 June 2013, the European Parliament approved a motion condemning the excessive use of force by Turkish riot police against demonstrators during Gezi Park protests in the country.

MEPs expressed deep concerns at the disproportionate and excessive use of force by Turkish police to break up peaceful and legitimate protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. In a resolution voted by a show of hands on Thursday 13 June, they warned against the use of harsh measures against peaceful protesters and said prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan must take a unifying and conciliatory position.

Those responsible for the police violence must be brought to justice, detained peaceful protestors immediately released and the victims compensated, MEPs said. While welcoming the moderate response to the protests by president Abdullah Gül and apologies by deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc, they deplored the unwillingness of the Turkish government and Mr Erdogan to take steps towards reconciliation, to apologise and to understand the reactions of a segment of the Turkish population.

The protesters increasingly feel that minority voices lack representation and parts of the Turkish population are dissatisfied with the recent lifestyle regulation, MEPs said. They stressed that in an inclusive, pluralistic democracy, the majority has a responsibility to include opposition and civil society in the decision-making process.

The holding of peaceful and legitimate protests in itself testifies to the vibrancy of Turkish civil society but Turkey must further improve its democratic institutions, the rule of law and the observance of fundamental freedoms, MEPs said.

MEPs also expressed concerns about the deterioration in press freedom, including acts of censorship and growing self-censorship within the Turkish media. Mainstream Turkish media remained silent about the demonstrations and Twitter users were arrested, MEPs noted. They stressed the importance of an independent press for a democratic society and the role of the judiciary in enhancing press freedom, citing the high number of journalists in prison and on trial.

The motion received immediate reaction from Turkey side, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly criticizing the motion, saying that “I do not recognize any decision the European Parliament takes on us. Those who pass such a resolution, they should look at Greece, the protests and police response there. What did the EU officials do to them other then giving them money?”. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also rejected the European Parliament resolution, describing it as “unacceptable” for Turkey. He said no country could in any way teach Turkey democracy lessons. He claimed that Turkey is a country that protects freedom of assembly and other freedoms of democracy.

The minister in charge of EU affairs, Egemen Bağış, accused some European officials and politicians of making “irresponsible” statements and “talking nonsense” for the sake of media attention.