No comment on Turkey-EU relations until referendum: Merkel

No comment on Turkey-EU relations until referendum: Merkel

BERLIN – Reuters
No comment on Turkey-EU relations until referendum: Merkel

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The results of Turkey’s April 16 referendum on whether to replace the current parliamentary system with an executive presidency should be awaited before any comments are made on Turkey’s relations with the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

Asked on March 23 whether EU accession negotiations with Turkey should be discontinued, Merkel replied: “We should await the vote on the referendum in Turkey and everything else.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 23 stated that European countries could be faced with a surprise depending on the results of the April 16 referendum.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 to decide on whether to replace the government system with an executive presidency boasting vastly enhanced powers for the president or to maintain the current parliamentary system. 

The “yes” vote is endorsed by Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the leadership of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are campaigning for a “no” vote.

Merkel also said she had taken “very seriously” a report by the Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe, that called Turkey’s proposed constitutional changes a big setback for democracy.

The draft opinion released on March 10 read that “the commission warns against a ‘one-person regime’ in Turkey.”

“The commission notes that by removing necessary checks and balances, the amendments would not follow the model of a democratic presidential system based on the separation of powers, and instead would risk degeneration into an authoritarian presidential system,” the opinion read.

“The current state of emergency does not provide the proper democratic setting for a vote as important as a constitutional referendum, the experts concluded,” it added, referring to the state of emergency declared after the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Turkey has rejected the report, with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ calling it a “mouthpiece of Turkey’s opposition.”