The criticism comes at a crucial time, when the EU is negotiating a migrant deal with Turkey to take back "irregular migrants" — those denied asylum in Greece and Italy — in return for acceleration of Turkey's accession into the EU. Critics say Erdogan's repression of the Kurds and Kurdish political opposition, his record on human rights and press freedom make the deal untenable.
The Turkish president has accused the pro-Kurdish HDP, Parliament's third-largest party, of being the political wing of militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish south-east. HDP denies links with militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and fears an overwhelming majority of its 59 members could be jailed under the new law, mostly for views they have expressed.
MEPs from all the political groups criticized the Turkish parliament's decision to strip 138 of its members, most from the pro-Kurdish opposition, of their immunity from prosecution. They called on Turkey to respect the rule of law and freedom of expression and to protect minority rights.
Some MEPs described the Turkish parliament's decision as an attempt by President Erdogan to silence opposition, change the constitution and increase presidential powers, which they said, runs counter to Turkey's EU accession responsibility to ensure the stability of institutions.
During the debate, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) MEP, Alexander Lambsdorff (FDP, Germany), Vice-President of the European Parliament, said the measure goes against European democratic values:
"The decision to lift MPs' immunity is a heavy blow for democracy in Turkey. All members involved were rightfully elected by the people of Turkey. Consequently, they have the right to exercise their mandate in full independence. The move appears to be part of a targeted strategy by President Erdogan to gain support for the executive presidential system that he is said to be pursuing."
European United Left/Nordic Green Left President, Gabi Zimmer, used her speech to criticize President Erdogan's dictatorial streak, and lamented the effects this has had on democracy in the country,
"This is a concerted effort to push the political system towards a presidential and autocratic system. The parliament dominated by the ruling AK Party is abusing the power of Turkish democracy — and that is going to have ramifications on the way in which members can express their views and represent their citizens. We are in the 21st century now in Europe and it is still possible for a climate of fear to be created," Zimmer said.