Turkey criticizes EU report on membership
The Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized a report released on Oct. 19 by the European Commission on Turkey’s membership process, saying it once again reflected the double-standard approach towards the country.
The report on the enlargement strategy “unfortunately” overlooked responsibilities towards Turkey at a time when the Turkish government revived high-level dialogue with the EU and sought to develop a better political agenda with the bloc, said the ministry in a written statement.
Turkey does not accept baseless and unfair criticism, especially in the chapters on political criteria along with judicial and basic rights, the ministry said, adding the EU came up with unproportionate findings without evaluating the conditions specific to Turkey with regards to the country’s governance, political system, basic rights and fight against terrorism.
The statement added that the EU’s approach did not take threats against Turkey into account such as those by the YPG/PKK, FETÖ and ISIL groups. The EU’s approach served no other purpose than to please “radical” circles in Europe that are against the EU and Turkey, it said.
Referring to the deal on refugees reached between Turkey and the EU on March 18, 2016, the ministry said the report solely focused on the migration part of the agreement. While it praised Turkey for its efforts in the context of migration, it did not mention the EU obligations in this regard, and it was unacceptable that the EU only sought to cooperate with Turkey based on its sole interests in certain fields, the statement added.
The ministry also underlined that it was yet another EU inconsistency that the report claimed there had been a decrease in Turkey’s compliance with EU policies and that new conflicts of interests had risen while the bloc was blocking high-level dialogue and cooperation mechanisms on subjects such as foreign policy, regional developments, security, defense and sectoral matters.
It was further noted that the EU was not authorized in the issues of the eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and Cyprus, and it included either inconsistent or pro-Greek or Greek Cypriot theses in the report, which were rejected by Turkey.
While Turkey has carried out its part of the bargain fairly so as to de-escalate tensions and initiate dialogue and cooperation, the EU still persistently did not acknowledge the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, said the statement, arguing that this sided and unfair approach by the EU added to the tensions, let alone offering a solution. This approach undermined the EU’s ambition to be a regional and global power, it also noted.
Ankara said it welcomed that the report highlighted the development of the Turkish economy and it was moving toward a pre-crisis level thanks to the measures adopted as part of efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak but the EU did not have the right to remind Turkey of its obligations while politicizing the updating of the Customs Union, especially at a time when state interference in the economy has risen to eliminate the negative impact of COVID-19 on finance.
Noting that Turkey is a key partner to the EU in essential areas of joint interest, including counter-terrorism, the economy, trade, energy and transport, the report underlined that dialogue and cooperation between the bloc and Turkey increased in 2021.
The EU has a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the eastern Mediterranean as well as the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey, the report said.
The EU accused Turkey of obstructing the vessel Nautical Geo from conducting a survey in the region and Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots of “changing the status” of Varosha in Turkish Cyprus. The EU remains determined to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its member states as well as to uphold regional stability, the report warned.
The bloc said Turkey’s increasingly “assertive foreign policy continued to collide” with EU priorities under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), notably due to its support for military action in the Caucasus, Syria and Iraq
“There are serious deficiencies in the functioning of Turkey’s democratic institutions. Democratic backsliding continued during the reporting period,” said the EU.
“Structural deficiencies” of the presidential system remained in place, it said, noting that parliament continued to lack the necessary means to hold the government accountable.
“Despite ending the state of emergency in July 2018, certain legal provisions granting extraordinary powers to government authorities and retaining several restrictive elements from the emergency rule remained integrated into law, which continued to have a significant impact on democracy and fundamental rights,” said the EU report.
The report warned that “serious backsliding continued on freedom of expression.”
“Legislation and its implementation, especially national security and anti-terrorism provisions, continued to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights and other international standards and to diverge from ECtHR case law,” it said.
The report, on the other hand, was more positive concerning Turkey’s hosting millions of refugees and praised the country’s efforts to meet the needs of the world’s largest refugee community. The bloc welcomed the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change by Turkey and said it looks forward to engaging with Turkey on the implementation of the European Green Deal.