Members of the European Union’s parliament stopped short Thursday of condemning Turkish police violence against protesters as thousands continue to demonstrate in Istanbul and Ankara.
In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament expressed its deep concern at what it called "the disproportionate and excessive use of force by Turkish police to break up peaceful and legitimate protests." Turkey has been a candidate for EU admission for years.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has cracked down on the protests, which started earlier this month against plans to redevelop the small Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. What began as a peaceful sit-in of environmentalists ballooned into a huge anti-government movement when riot police stormed the protest, igniting the shortened fuse of urbanites that feel the Islamist government is turning authoritarian and threatening their freedoms.
“Reports of widespread injuries once again underlined these police tactics are a major cause of concern,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said during a debate on Wednesday.
“What started peacefully, now turned into violence,” Ria Oomen-Ruijten, a Dutch representative who serves as the parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, said, according to Euractiv. “If Prime Minister Erdoğan would have been more sensitive, if the language would have been more sensitive, and also the style of governing for those who didn’t vote for him would have been more sensitive, than it wouldn’t have happened.”
Some, like Greece’s Niki Tzavela, praised Erdoğan’s willingness to compromise. Still, others touted the crackdown as reason Turkey should not be admitted to the EU.
“Yes, we want Turkey, but this Turkey as represented today by Mr. Erdoğan cannot have a place in Europe,” Hannes Swoboda of Austria said.