(AFP) – Turkey on Monday slammed EU criticism of its crackdown following the July 15 coup bid and warned relations were increasingly fragile as the bloc crafts a report on its stalled membership bid.
The European Union has strongly criticised Turkey over the arrests of nine MPs from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including its two co-leaders, as well as staff at the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.
The strains come as the EU’s powerful executive Commission prepares to publish a new scorecard on Wednesday on Turkey’s readiness for accession — a report said to be the most negative yet.
“We made clear our alarm over the positions taken by the EU,” Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said in televised comments after calling in all EU member state ambassadors for an exceptional meeting.
“We are in a very fragile period in EU-Turkey relations… Constant opposition to Turkey is not a correct policy,” he said in Ankara.
– ‘Clear consequences’ –
Turkey has been seeking to join the EU since the 1960s with formal accession talks opening in 2005.
But the process has been mired in problems, one of which is Erdogan’s threat to restore capital punishment — a move that, his EU critics say, would doom the membership bid as soon as it is implemented.
Another longstanding barrier, the division of Cyprus, was the subject of talks in Switzerland Monday chaired by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who said a deal was in reach.
Celik hit out at “racist” voices within the EU that have called for Turkey’s accession process to be halted due to the clampdown.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told Oe1 radio that Turkey must “top the agenda” of a meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday and a deal for Turkey to stem the flow of refugees in return for billions of euros reviewed.
“Over recent years Turkey has moved further and further away from the EU, but our policy has remained the same. That can’t work. What we need are clear consequences,” Kurz said.
According to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Sunday, the latest EU progress report on Turkey will speak of a “severe regression” in freedom of expression.
It will say that legal measures in the crackdown after the coup are being applied “selectively and arbitrarily”. In Brussels, the EU Commission declined to comment.
– ‘Like the Nazis’ –
Celik complained the bloc had not shown sufficient solidarity with Ankara following an attempted coup on July 15 which sought to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“It is not acceptable that some of our friends in Europe use one sentence to say that they are standing next to us and then come up with nine sentences of criticism,” he added.
Turkey has blamed the coup on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accusing him of running a group called the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), and has said Europe is not doing enough to extradite his supporters. Gulen denies the claims.
Celik lashed out at remarks by Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, comparing Turkey’s crackdown to methods used by the Nazis.
“There’s a lack of historical knowledge here,” said Celik.
“Turkey’s current struggle actually resembles that against the Nazis after they came to power.
“Compared to FETO, the Nazis look like apprentices or primary school students,” he said.
Some 35,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands more have lost their jobs in the crackdown since the coup bid.
A 10th HDP lawmaker, Nihat Akdogan, was detained Monday, the government said. A court will to decide on his arrest. Two more wanted HDP MPs are still abroad and are said to be in Belgium.