Türkiye has condemned the European Commission’s annual enlargement report as “unfair and biased,” after the bloc accused Ankara of backsliding on democratic standards, while simultaneously recommending launching membership talks with Ukraine.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded to the European Commission’s latest country report on Thursday, calling it “unjust and biased” and also “worrisome for the future of our continent.”
“We categorically reject unfounded claims and unjust criticisms,” the ministry said in a statement. “The unfair allegations against Türkiye on various fundamental rights issues… highlights the insincerity of this approach and a clear double-standard.”
Published Wednesday, the annual review by the EU’s executive wing outlined whether Türkiye had implemented sweeping policy changes needed to meet the bloc’s standards for membership. However, the report said Ankara had made “no progress” on a range of issues, including judicial, legal and administrative reforms recommended in the past.
“The lack of objective, merit-based, uniform, and pre-established criteria for recruiting and promoting judges and prosecutors remains a source of concern,” the commission said, going on to allege “serious backsliding” on democratic standards and the rule of law.
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The EU also slammed Türkiye’s position on the Israel-Gaza conflict, accusing officials of “rhetoric in support [of] terrorist group Hamas,” and of failing to condemn the militants’ deadly attack on Israel last month.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it would take those criticisms as “praise,” defending Ankara’s “principled stance regarding the Hamas-Israel war” while accusing the EU Commission of hypocrisy.
“The EU is on the wrong side of history in the face of a massacre that is reminiscent of the darkness of medieval times,” the ministry said of Israel’s military activity in Gaza. “The EU must remember that policies based on universal values, international law, and humanitarian principles cannot be limited to Ukraine… but must be pursued universally, including in the Middle East.”
Already a NATO member, Türkiye has long sought to join the European Union, with formal negotiations for membership kicking off in 2005. However, the process has ground to a halt in recent years as the EU continues to demand wide-ranging reforms, with the European Parliament voting to suspend the accession talks in 2019.
While criticizing Türkiye’s governance on Wednesday, the European Commission recommended launching membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova once the two countries have concluded reforms required by the bloc. EC President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that Kiev has been “deeply reforming” the country even amid the conflict with Moscow. She further stated that Ukraine had already carried out “well over 90% of the necessary steps” for membership set out by the bloc last year.