BRUSSELS: The European Union said on Wednesday that Turkey continues to distance itself from the bloc and its values and says sees no reason to unblock the country’s EU membership talks.
In a progress report on Turkey’s membership prospects released Wednesday, the EU’s executive commission criticizes “serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
The EU agreed last year that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession talks should be opened or closed and the report notes that “the underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.”
Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow.
The topics of concern are all areas considered central for membership by the European Union, which prides itself on being a democratic club of market economies that respect the rule of law.
“Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union,” the Commission said in its annual report on Ankara’s progress toward membership, a path formally undertaken in 2005.
“Negotiations have ... effectively come to a standstill,” the Commission said of Turkey, a member of the US-led NATO alliance which shares a border with Iraq and Syria.
Some EU countries oppose the large, relatively poor and mainly Muslim country joining. Germany, notably, would prefer an alternate kind of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.
But the office of the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back at the criticisms from the EU, saying the findings in the enlargement report reflect the EU’s own “existential crisis.”
Turkey’s deputy foreign minister said the report does not “accurately assess the current situation” in the country and that Turkey would be “carefully noting the constructive criticism” in the report.
He said he also expected Turkey’s European allies to support it in its battle against security threats.
The EU wants to see a return to the reforms of Erdogan’s first years in power as prime minister from 2003 that made it an important emerging economy.
But the Commission said in its report that even with the lifting of a state of emergency in 2018 following a failed coup in July 2016, many of its “repressive elements” became law.