“I have to admit that despite all our efforts, the section on political criteria in this year’s report is an especially huge disappointment for us,” Turkish European Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış said in Istanbul, quoted by the daily Hurriyet. “The EU’s broken mirror is far away from reflecting the truth. The EU’s report is only a reflection of efforts to delay Turkey’s EU membership since the EU is in an economical and political crisis.”
Bağış added that the report had been “a huge disappointment” for his country, while the Foreign Ministry called it “unbalanced.”
Bağış blamed the Cypriot EU presidency, calling the country “a so-called peninsula state that Turkey does not recognise.” The envoy also said he had once likened the EU to a dietician whose health was getting worse day by day, but said he now saw that EU also was experiencing “mental problems” as well.
The 94-page progress report on Turkey paints a contrasting image of the relations between the Union and its largest-ever applicant. It says Turkey had frozen relations with the EU presidency, and wants to join the EU without recognising one of its members. When the country received candidate status, Cyprus was not yet an EU member.
Speaking to journalists after the presentation of the country reports, Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said the EU and Turkey “had the keys” to unlock the situation.
Regarding the keys held by Turkey, he referred to the Ankara protocol (see background). The very next day that Turkey delivers on its commitments, the Commission will propose opening the eight chapters that remain frozen under consensual decision of the member states, he said.
But apparently Turkey is unhappy mostly with the Commission’s assessment of its compliance with the so-called Copenhagen political criteria for accession. Under the chapter “Democracy and the rule of law”, the country is criticised for heavy-handed use of law enforcement against the alleged Ergenekon network and the ensuing “Sledgehammer” trial against military commanders, accused of a coup attempt in 2003.
Another obviously painful criticism concerns the handling of the Kurdish issue. The Commission regrets that an opening initiated by the largest opposition party CHP in 2009 has not been followed up. The EU executive regrets the killing of civilians and the absence of transparent public inquiry into such events.
The Commission also criticises the country's work on a new constitution, naming as key challenges the issues of the separation of powers, state-society-religion relations and the Kurdish issue (citizenship, use of the mother-tongue, and decentralisation).
Opposition sees things differently
The harsh criticism by Turkey's ruling authorities contrasts with the position of the largest opposition party, the CHP (Republican Party of Turkey), which seeks to upgrade is associate status to full membership in the Party of European Socialists.
In a statement, the CHP stresses that it has been defending a comprehensive agenda of democratic reforms for Turkish people's rights and freedoms as well as regulatory reforms in line with EU membership.
“The EU Commission highlights significant deficits of the actual Turkish government and very rightly emphasises the irrational blockage by some EU member states of Turkey's EU accession process,” the CHP statement said. “In a time when Europe and the world have been facing immense challenges, the EU's policy on Turkey needs to be visionary and in convergence with European values and common interests.”
Kader Sevinç, CHP representative in Brussels and a member of the Party of European Socialists presidency, told EurActiv that her party, together with PES, believes that it is crucial to launch a new EU-Turkey Agenda.
“In Turkey, the AKP government is no longer as committed to the goal of EU membership as it was in the past. We observe worrying trends in Turkey, jeopardising democratic accountability time and time again. These AKP policies have consequently made Turkey less qualified for EU accession,” Sevinç said.