EU Commission criticizes Turkey on human rights, praises refugee efforts

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

The European Comission has criticized Ankara in its latest progress report released yesterday, saying Turkey is moving rapidly away from the path of European Union membership, calling for lifting its state of emergency, while praising the country's humanitarian efforts for the nearly 4 million refugees it hosts within its borders.

Turkey "continues to take huge strides away from the EU, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights," European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who oversees EU membership bids, told a news conference. "The Commission has repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse this negative trend as a matter of priority and makes very clear the recommendations on this in today's report," he said.

Despite criticism, the report praised Turkey's efforts in solution to the Syrian refugee crisis and asylum policy. "Turkey made good progress in the area of migration and asylum policy and remained committed to the implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey statement effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route," the report said.

Within the framework of the deal, signed on March 18, 2016, with the EU, Turkey expects the 28-nation bloc to fulfill its promises. The deal aiming to stem irregular migration over the Aegean Sea is considered to be successful as the irregular transitions have been substantially reduced.

The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen zone, on the condition that Ankara meets all 72 requirements set by the EU.

As Turkey has been acting in line with the agreement and hosting over 3.5 million refugees, it stresses that the EU should not shirk its responsibilities and accelerate efforts to transfer funds for the refugees it had promised.

The report also emphasized customs union, saying, "Turkey is well advanced in the areas of company law, trans-European networks and science and research and it has achieved a good level of preparation in the areas of free movement of goods, intellectual property law, financial services, enterprise and industrial policy, consumer and health protection, customs union and financial control."

The upgrading of the customs union is also one of Ankara's expectations of the EU. While the EU has been sluggish to take any steps, Ankara has been stressing that the upgrading of the deal will be for the benefit of both sides. Previously, EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said: "The technical issue has become a political one" and that the EU would be conflicting itself if the customs union was not upgraded.

The EU report also condemned July 15, 2016 coup attempt perpetrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Turkey often criticizes the EU for failing to show support after the bloody attempt, which caused the death of 250 people.

Germany's EU minister said yesterday the EU should not stop its accession talks with Turkey despite a lack of progress and questions about the rule of law in the country.

"It is in the hands of those responsible in Turkey to decide whether they want to be a member of this European community of values," Michael Roth said on arrival to a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.

Çelik slammed EU leaders yesterday, saying that those who call Turkey as an opponent fall the trap of those who want to revive cold war policies in Balkans.

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