ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey accused the European Union of bias and bigoted attitudes towards the EU candidate country on Monday and blamed it for undermining the Turkish public’s trust in the bloc.
Turkey criticized the European Commission’s latest report on its progress towards EU membership as it presented for the first time its own report highlighting its reforms over the last year.
Turkey began accession talks in 2005 but the process has ground to a halt due to an intractable dispute over Cyprus, the divided island state which Turkey does not recognize, and opposition from core EU members France and Germany.
Despite waning domestic support for joining the EU, Ankara has continued to push for full membership of the union and has said it wants to join before 2023, the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.
“We observed that this year’s Turkey Progress Report was overshadowed by more subjective, biased, unwarranted and bigoted attitudes,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said in a statement accompanying Turkey’s own 270-page report.
Bagis said it was unacceptable that the European Commission report released in October had ignored Turkey’s “courageous” reforms over the last year and that this undermined the EU’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the Turkish public.
The minister previously voiced his disappointment with the report in October, saying it failed to be objective, ignored the expansion of rights for religious minorities and had criticized the judiciary too sweepingly.
A recent survey by the German Marshall Fund think-tank found a majority of Turks view the EU negatively, illustrating the declining enthusiasm for EU membership.
Ankara has completed only one of the 35 policy “chapters” every candidate must conclude to join the EU. All but 13 of those chapters are blocked by France, Cyprus and the European Commission.
Talks have also been blocked by the Commission which says Turkey does not yet meet required standards on human rights, freedom of speech and religion.
“Today there is no government in Europe which is more reformist than our government,” Bagis said.
“While EU countries are struggling in crisis, our country is experiencing the most democratic, prosperous, modern and transparent period in its history,” he said.
“The ‘sick man’ of yesterday has got up and summoned the strength to prescribe medication for today’s Europe … and to share the EU’s burden rather than being a burden to it,” he said.
The progress report prepared by Turkey, released on the website of its EU Affairs Ministry, cited the passage of reforms in the areas of the judiciary, education and workers rights as examples of progress over the year.
Bagis told Reuters in Dublin earlier this month Turkey was hopeful France will unblock talks over EU membership on at least two policy chapters in the coming months ahead of a visit by President Francois Hollande.
While Hollande has stopped short of endorsing Turkey’s EU candidacy, he has said it should be judged on political and economic criteria – a contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s position that Turkey did not form part of Europe.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on December 21 the current standstill in negotiations over Turkey’s membership bid was unsatisfactory and the new year offered an opportunity to tackle outstanding issues with renewed vigor.
(Editing by Stephen Nisbet)