Turkey has reacted angrily to a highly critical progress report by the European Commission on Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the EU needs to make up its mind on Turkey’s accession bid immediately.
“They shamelessly say that Turkey’s EU negotiations should be reviewed. You are already late. Reassess it, but do not delay in reassessing it. Make your final decision,” Erdoğan said.
The EU Commission’s report voiced grave concern about Turkey’s crackdown on its opponents, since the attempted coup. Clearly indicating the success of Turkey’s bid to join the EU was becoming increasingly unlikely.
Turkey has eroded the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and other fundamental democratic standards since the coup attempt, the EU said, in its most hard-hitting annual report on the country’s long-running membership bid.
Rebuffing the criticisms regarding political criteria, fundamental freedoms and the judiciary in the report, EU Minister Ömer Çelik said Turkey was going through an extraordinary period “unprecedented even for world history,” referring to the fight against terror and the July 15 coup attempt.
“The report was not drawn up in an understanding that serves relations between the EU and Turkey and is far from the perspective of accession negotiations,” he said.
President Erdoğan reiterated Ankara’s determination to fight terror, saying thousands of people had been “martyred” in the struggle.
“If you will review Turkey’s EU negotiations because Turkey fights honourably against terrorism, you are late. Our struggle with terrorism will continue until the end,” he said.
Top EU Enlargement official, Johannes Hahn said that “The coup attempt of July 15 was an attack on democracy per se. Given the seriousness of the situation, a swift reaction to the threat was legitimate.”
“However, the large scale and collective nature of measures taken over the last months raise very serious concerns. Turkey as a candidate country must fulfil the highest standards in the field of the rule of law and fundamental rights. In this year’s report we therefore stress Turkey’s backsliding in the area of rule of law and fundamental rights,” he said.
The report said a number of Turkish laws on the rule of law and fundamental rights were “not in line with European standards” and it expressed “grave concern” over the arrests last week of MPs from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focused on the Kurdish issue.
“The anti-terror law is not in line with the acquis [EU norms] with regard to its scope and definitions and its application raises serious fundamental rights concerns,” it said.
It also expressed “serious concern” over safeguarding human rights in Turkey, including on gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of gay rights.
“Regarding the renewed considerations to introduce a bill in parliament to reinstate the death penalty, the EU recalls that the unequivocal rejection of the death penalty is an essential element of the EU acquis and a central international obligation to which Turkey has committed,” the report said.
According to EU Minister Çelik, “there are sections in the report that are very far from being objective. We are faced here with a report that is far from being constructive and offering a way forwards.”
But the EU has lost the opportunity to produce “a new vision” in this report, he said. Following the coup attempt, Turkey proved that it has “first-class quality in embracing democracy. Our nation has rewritten Europe’s and the world’s history of democracy,” Çelik added.