Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday presented a 'democracy package', outlining a mix of future legislative proposals and executive orders.
Hannes Swoboda, president of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, commented:
"Erdoğan's 'democracy package' includes some crucial points concerning the rights of minorities, parliamentary representation and pluralism which are both practically and symbolically important. Therefore I cautiously welcome prime minister Erdoğan's announcements.
"But, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is regrettable that no timeline was submitted for the implementation of the proposed reforms. It remains to be seen whether all of these proposals will have sufficient support from Erdoğan's AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the government to become reality. Cross-party support and co-operation will be essential to achieve the reforms as laid out. Hopefully Erdoğan is not playing with the hopes of Turkey's people but will prove in the coming months that he is fully committed to the proposals in the package.
"The European Parliament and the Socialists and Democrats Group have long called for a lowering of the current 10% threshold for parties to enter parliament in Turkey. The proposed reforms on representation would be more conducive to a pluralist society and parliament. Regarding the drafting of new constituencies (single-member districts) it is however essential that these follow rational rules, rather than party-political gerrymandering."
Regarding the rights of minorities and Turkey's ongoing EU accession talks, Hannes Swoboda added:
"The recognition of the Kurdish language, the option for pupils to be taught in a language other than Turkish in private schools and the recognition of pre-1980 village names are one way to reduce discrimination against the Kurdish people. But more must be done regarding the rights of minorities – including the Alevi community – and concerning the freedom of the press and women's rights. The partial abolition of the headscarf ban in public is another step in the right direction.
"I do regret that Prime Minister Erdoğan did not mention Turkey's position as a candidate to join the European Union in his 'democracy package'. Some proposed reforms, including the data protection law, would align Turkey more closely with EU legislation and I hope that this is still the aim of Erdoğan's government, despite obstacles on both sides that will need to be overcome in the next few years."