‘Turkish constitutional referendum outcome cause for EU concern’

The European Union should be concerned with the outcome of Sunday’s constitutional referendum in Turkey and observe how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan uses his newly gained powers, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Monday.

Turks approved government-backed constitutional changes to shift to a presidential system and thus broaden presidential powers during Sunday’s referendum, with preliminary results showing 51.3 percent support. The reforms had already cleared the Turkish parliament and was signed by Erdogan.

“We [the EU members] should follow with concern how the new presidential powers are used. We should be vigilant as there is already existing  concern, which emerged after the clampdown in the wake of the attempted coup. Any further clampdown must be avoided with the advent of the new presidential powers,” Reynders said while broadcast by the Premiere radio station.

EU-Turkish relations have been increasingly bitter after several pro-referendum rallies held by Turkish officials, aimed at gaining support from Turkish citizens living abroad, were canceled in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. EU officials have also repeatedly expressed concern over the state of human rights in Turkey when thousands of people, including journalists, armed forces members, teachers, judges and activists were arrested in the wake of last year’s failed coup against Erdogan.