The European Commission’s latest report on Turkey’s accession to the EU expresses concerns over democratic backsliding, the continued militarisation of Northern Cyprus and pro-Hamas rhetoric.
“Türkiye [the country’s official name] continued to move away from the EU and did not reverse the negative trend in relation to reform, despite its repeated statements of commitment to EU accession,” the report unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday states.
“The EU’s serious concerns on the continued deterioration of democratic standards, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and respect for fundamental rights were not addressed,” it added.
Ankara first applied to join the then-European Economic Community in 1987, received candidate status in 1999 and started the negotiating process in 2005.
Sixteen accession chapters have since been opened but negotiations ground to a standstill in 2018 over the autocratic turn of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the failed 2016 coup d’état. His government, however, continues to officially aspire to EU membership.
However, the Commission said Turkey remains in the “early stage” of preparation in areas including the judiciary and the fight against corruption with the country refusing to implement a number of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Human and fundamental rights are seen as deteriorating, and “serious backsliding” regarding civil society issues continued while political pluralism was undermined through the targeting of opposition parties and politicians with allegations and gag laws, the report states.
Ankara’s position on several foreign policy issues, meanwhile, remains “at odds” with the bloc’s stance. Its alignment rate with the EU on foreign and security policy stands at just 10% this year, a timid uptick from 8% in 2022.
Candidate countries, for instance, are expected to align with sanctions the bloc takes against other countries but Turkey has not endorsed any of the 11 packages of restrictive measures the EU has imposed on Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The Commission also remarked that Turkey’s “rhetoric in support to terrorist group Hamas following its attacks against Israel on 7 October 2023 is in complete disagreement with the EU approach.”
It deplored that no progress had been made over the Cyprus issue as Turkey continues to refuse to recognise the Republic of Cyprus and advocates for a two-state solution on the eastern Mediterranean island “contrary to relevant UN Security Council Resolutions”.
The Negotiation Framework agreed between the two sides had explicitly called on Turkey to “actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue”.
Turkish military exercises in the maritime zones of Cyprus as well as violations of Cypriot airspace continued, the Commission report said, as did “the harassment of Cypriot fishing vessels”.
Among the rare positive notes, the Commission said that there were no unauthorised drilling activities by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean during the reporting period and that relations with Greece had improved since the devastating earthquake of February 2023 which led to the death of over 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
“As of February 2023, violations of Greek airspace diminished drastically, and no flights over Greek inhabited areas were reported,” the report says.
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