BRUSSELS — The EU on Tuesday criticised Turkey’s efforts to win membership of the bloc, saying recent spats with European states were "not conducive to good neighbourly relations".
In its latest report on Ankara’s long-stalled bid to join the union, the European Commission said "serious shortcomings" on democracy and the rule of law remained.
The Turkish foreign ministry hit back at the report, saying the Commission showed "that it was once again unwilling to understand the difficulties of the period we are passing through" and was "far from understanding the realities of Turkey".
It complained that the Commission was "unable to be objective and balanced." The report focused particularly on rows including Ankara’s arrest of two Greek soldiers and its promise to prevent the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government from exploring for oil and gas.
"Tensions in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean were not conducive to good neighbourly relations and undermined regional stability and security," the report said.
"Bilateral relations with several EU member states deteriorated, including at times offensive and unacceptable rhetoric."
The report added: "Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations."
The Turkish foreign ministry however warned the EU against giving a "carte blanche" to its member states such as Greece, saying such a stance "contradicts the EU’s own values".
’Membership unchanged target’
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini ruled out ending the current freeze on opening new "chapters" in Turkey’s EU membership process.
"Turkey is a candidate country, an important partner for the EU and a key actor, but it is not the time to open a new chapter in the negotiations," she said.
The Turkish foreign ministry complained that "certain general allegations, accusations and comments targeting Turkey in the report are unacceptable".
Reacting to the report, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag added that "full membership of the European Union remains an unchanged target for Turkey."
Negotiations began in 2005 and so far Turkey has opened just 16 out of 33 chapters.
Relations between Brussels and Ankara have been particularly tense in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown following a coup attempt in July 2016.
Erdogan has drifted increasingly closer to Russia and Iran, especially concerning the conflict in Syria, despite being a NATO member.
But Bozdag added: "It is not Turkey that has distanced itself from the European Union, it is the European Union which is not behaving objectively on the issue of full membership and is, unfortunately, partisan."
Meanwhile, he said it was up to Greece to avoid "provocative" acts which he warned risked leading to "undesired incidents" in the Aegean Sea.
The report also said that Turkey should lift the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup "without delay."
"The broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures... such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns," it said.
However at the same time as the report was issued, the National Security Council (MGK), after a meeting chaired by Erdogan, said in a statement it had agreed to recommend the emergency should be extended for three more months.
The latest extension was due to come to an end on Thursday. — AFP