BRUSSELS: Turkey´s embattled prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, refused to budge on a much-criticised reform of the country´s top judicial body on his first EU visit in five years Tuesday.
Visiting the EU headquarters in Brussels, Erdogan stood firm on his controversial response to a massive graft scandal engulfing Turkey.
EU leaders simply noted their concern, calling for respect of the rule of law and the separation of powers and saying they would watch and wait.
At stake is a plan to reform Turkey´s top judicial body, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the latest chapter in a weeks-long political crisis triggered by a massive corruption investigation that has ensnared key Erdogan allies.
“The judiciary should not go beyond its defined mission and mandate. This is what we´re doing. Anything else is misinformation and disinformation,” Erdogan said at a news conference.
“Certain recommendations have been made by our European friends and we have taken them into account,” the premier added after what was described by all sides as “a lively debate” on the draft judicial reform legislation with European lawmakers.
“Other modifications possibly will be made,” he added. “But the law must come into force as quickly as possible.
“Back in Ankara the Turkish parliament late Tuesday opened its own raucous debate on the reform that the opposition and the HSYK have called “unconstitutional”.
Brawls broke out between opposition lawmakers and members of Erdogan´s AKP party.
Erdogan´s response to the graft probe — purging police and prosecutors — has set alarm bells ringing on the state of democracy in Turkey and raised concerns in the EU and elsewhere over his increasingly autocratic actions.
The powerful Turkish leader of 11 years blames his troubles on a plot by an exiled rival with influence in the police and courts, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said he had urged the Turkish leader “not to backtrack on achievements and to assure that the judiciary is able to function without discrimination or preference, in a transparent and impartial manner”.