Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has slammed the European Commission’s annual report assessing its long-stalled bid to join the European Union, saying it was unjust and biased.
The report, published on Wednesday by the EU’s executive arm, accused Ankara of “serious backsliding” on democratic standards, the rule of law, human rights and judicial independence.
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“We categorically reject unfounded claims and unjust criticisms, particularly on the political criteria and the Chapter on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The Commission also said Turkey did not comply with the principles of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in its counterterrorism operations.
“The government has a legitimate right and a responsibility to fight terrorism, but it is essential that it does so in full compliance with the principles of the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms,” the report said.
The Turkish ministry said the allegations were unfair and highlighted “the insincerity of EU’s approach and a clear double-standard”, adding that fundamental rights issues were contentious even among EU member states.
The Commission’s report is meant to update Turkey’s progress towards meeting standards for EU membership and could strain ties that are already troubled over immigration and, more recently, the war between Israel and the Hamas armed group in Gaza.
Since Israel started bombarding the Gaza Strip on October 7, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Israel of “behaving like a war criminal” and blamed the West for being the “main culprit behind the massacre unfolding”.
Long-delayed EU bid
Turkey began talks to join the EU in 2005, but that bid has long been frozen due to rights concerns and foreign policy rifts.
The EU has grown frustrated by Turkey’s stance on issues such as Syria, Cyprus, and Libya as well as its competing territorial claims with Greece to islands in the Aegean Sea.
On September 13, the European Parliament adopted a report by the European Commission stating Turkey’s EU accession process “cannot be resumed” without a “drastic change of course” by Ankara.
Erdogan responded that Ankara could “part ways with the EU” if necessary.