EU deeply concerned by crackdown on Turkish municipalities

The European Union expressed deep concerns on Monday about the Turkish government’s crackdown on municipalities run by pro-Kurdish opposition mayors in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Peter Stano, the Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the EU, said the recent suspension of five more mayors from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) appeared to have been politically motivated.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government began removing elected HDP politicians from local administrations and replacing them with government appointees in September 2016, during a state of emergency that was imposed after the coup attempt in July that year.

The practice continued after HDP mayors were elected in many southeastern municipalities in the March 2019 local elections, and the EU statement said government trustees have taken over 45 of 65 pro-Kurdish municipal governments.

The Turkish authorities say the HDP mayors are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for decades and which Turkey, the European Union and other countries list as a terrorist organisation.

The EU’s statement said that the Turkish government has a legitimate right to fight terrorism, but it also needs to make sure this is done in accordance with the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, enshrined in its Constitution and Turkey's international commitments. 

It called on Turkey to "repeal measures inhibiting the functioning of local democracy, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and with Turkey's commitment to the European Charter of Local Self-Government."

Turkey’s Interior Ministry has launched over two dozen investigations into Istanbul's main opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu’s activities during his term in office as the city's Beylikdüzü district mayor between 2014-2019, Turkish media reported last week. The main opposition party's Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş is also under investigation along with the dozens of dismissed mayors from the HDP.