Updated: 02/05/2018

Press Statement on the Country Report on Turkey By Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik

Distinguished Members of the Press,

  • We hoped that this years' country report would reflect the spirit of the favourable atmosphere that started with the EU-Turkey Summit of 26 March and become a road map that would not only reinforce the Turkey-EU association but also advance Turkey's EU accession negotiations.
  • However, the report is far from providing Turkey with a motivating road map. This is indicated by the emphasis in the report on that there would not be any chapters opened to accession negotiations.
  • We find the references to Turkey as a "key partner" and use of the expression “key areas of joint interest based on a broad strategic engagement” to be significant but not adequate. Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership.
  • We will once again take into consideration the criticisms which we find to be fair and consistent; however, we would have expected the report, prepared in such a critical period, to have been written with an understanding that placed more emphasis on the accession negotiations and better served Turkey-EU relations.
  • In fact, the EU, which accuses Turkey of drifting away from universal values today and claims this as the reason for the stall in the accession negotiations, has never taken a fair and principled approach to Turkey's accession negotiations.
  • The EU has itself brought Turkey's accession process to a deadlock shortly after the start of the negotiations by unfairly bringing the Cyprus issue before Turkey and remaining silent on the political obstructions placed by Member States.
  • Nearly half of the Chapters were blocked for political reasons even when Turkey-EU relations were at their best.
  • In fact, although more than ten years have passed, we have not been able attain the level of progress in the accession negotiations we envisioned. Fourteen chapters remain politically blocked due to the Cyprus Issue and for the same reason none of the chapters can be temporarily closed. 
  • The statement in the report indicating that no chapters would be opened to negotiations demonstrates how "sincere and constructive" the EU is regarding Turkey-EU relations, especially in view of the fact that there can be no progress in the accession negotiations without a solution to the political obstructions.
  • As Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs, I hope that the unfair and insincere approach taken by the EU on Turkey changes in the forthcoming period.
  • The long history of Turkey-EU relations has clearly demonstrated that the problems encountered are not a result of Turkey's shortcomings but due to the short-sighted political stance taken by some EU Member States and the introverted policies of the EU.
  • I am not saying that Turkey has no shortcomings; quite the contrary, I am saying to the EU leaders and institutions "Let's work together; we are sincere regarding Turkey-EU relations; please be sincere too."
  • However, I still believe that this report will not alter the favourable climate that emerged after the EU-Turkey Summit held in Varna and that the road map provided by Turkey at the Summit maintains its importance for the future of Turkey-EU relations with reference to concrete steps that can be taken.

Distinguished Members of the Press,

  • As you may well know, country reports are working documents which evaluate the progress made in one year by a negotiating, candidate or potential candidate country regarding its alignment with the Copenhagen Criteria. Thus, these documents are expected to be critical.
  • As I have just said, we prefer to face our shortcomings and have always been open to criticism and would like to benefit from the objective evaluations in the country reports prepared by the European Commission.
  • For this reason, we carried out intensive efforts in the Commission to ensure that an objective manner of writing would be adopted when preparing the report and that it would not become an instrument of political bargaining. 
  • As the Ministry for EU Affairs, in close cooperation with other relevant Ministries, we regularly conveyed all information and documents necessary for the preparation of the country report on Turkey.
  • However, I must say that the sections on the Political Criteria and Chapter 23 on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights are far from being objective and do not accurately reflect the facts.
  • We see that the magnitude of the threat posed to Turkey by the July 15 coup attempt and in its aftermath, has not been given due consideration when preparing the report. 
  • Terrorism is not a matter of concern just for Turkey but also for the EU. It should not be forgotten that the security of Europe begins with Turkey. Our fight is not only for our own security but also for the security of the EU.
  • Contrary to the criticism set forth, Turkey has not moved away from the principle of the rule of law and does not intend to do so during its fight against terrorism on its own territory and region. 
  • In fact, this approach is indicated by the additional mechanisms for monitoring such as the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission, which has been deemed by the ECtHR as an acceptable mechanism for domestic remedy.
  • Furthermore, all of the state of emergency decree laws that were enacted in this period have been approved by the parliament in the past several months.  All of these laws are now subject to judicial review just like other kinds of legislation.
  • In the scope of the dialogue established with the Council of Europe, we have carefully reviewed some of the measures taken, with consideration to the concept of rights and remedies, in order to prevent any grievances.
  • We welcome the reference to some of the significant developments in the last years, such as the abolishment of military courts, strengthening of civilian oversight and setting up of the e-state, in the report.
  • We see that the criticism focuses mainly on the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.
  • We would have expected the significant steps that we have taken to enhance the independence, functioning and effectiveness of the judiciary to have been included in the report.
  • We also find the critical statements regarding the presidential system in the report to be unacceptable. Criticising a constitutional amendment that has not yet been in effect on the grounds that it does not comprise a sufficient checks and balances mechanism nor an effective separation of powers, even while this amendment has been adopted by a referendum, is not only biased but also disregards the democratic will of the people.
  • There are also a number of prejudicial statements that criticise the freedom of expression in the report.
  • It is highly disappointing to still see the references to individuals that use terrorism as a political means in the parliament in the section on the freedom of expression. It is clear that statements inciting violence cannot be evaluated within the context of the freedom of expression or democracy, as set forth in the case law of the ECtHR, in particular the Batasuna ruling.
  • Furthermore, we reject the unfounded allegations regarding the decisive stance taken by our country against torture and ill-treatment.  Within the framework of our policy of zero tolerance for torture, we have taken many measures and have increased the penalty for the crime of torture. None of these have been referred to in the report.
  • Regarding Turkey's fight against terrorism, the emphasis on the statement in the Report indicating that the PKK is on the EU list of terrorist organisations is highly significant. Furthermore, there is a reference in the report that our government considers the “Gülenist movement” to be a terrorist organisation. However, I must say that we are disappointed to see that FETO is still referred to as the "Gülenist movement" throughout the report in general as if this were a civil society organisation instead of a terrorist organisation.
  • Furthermore, we find the emphasis on the "proportional use of force" made in the report in the scope of the fight against terrorism to be unacceptable.
  • Turkey's fight against terrorism is a legitimate and determined effort within the limits of the rule of law and is the lawful right of a sovereign state.
  • I would like to point out one matter in particular. On every occasion, the EU recognised the legitimacy of Turkey's fight against terrorism but also claimed that the measures taken are not proportional. We believe that the only explanation for this in good faith would be that the EU has not yet fully appreciated the magnitude of the threat faced by Turkey.
  • Isn’t it these kinds of threats that justify the right to declare a state of emergency by all democratic and constitutional states, as also recognised by the ECHR?.

Distinguished Members of the Press,

  • The positive effects of our cooperation with the EU in the area of migration are apparent. We have significantly decreased the number of irregular crossings, prevented the loss of lives in the seas and provided a legal and safe course of action for asylum-seekers fleeing oppression and seeking a more secure future.
  • Turkey has been given credit for its efforts in this area in the report. Turkey's success in controlling irregular migration in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea routes has been emphasised in the report.
  • I must remind you that yet another significant contradiction that affects the EU is that the EU adopts a security-oriented approach while speaking of politics of values. Turkey has accepted the "one-to-one" agreement as a result of its humanitarian approach and its sense of solidarity with the EU, of which it expects to be a member. However, the EU is insincere in its relations with Turkey also regarding this matter.
  • In this framework, I would like to remind you that we have shared the working paper on visa liberalisation with the EU in February.  We expect the EU to act in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda and adopt a constructive approach that is not political.
  • There are statements in the Enlargement Strategy regarding Operation Olive Branch, which we are carrying out in accordance with international law and with respect for the territorial integrity of Syria, that do not correspond to the realities of the situation in the region. These claims once more demonstrate that the EU does not take the stance necessitated by political and humanitarian considerations and adopts a selective approach in line with the Member States’ interests regarding the fight against terrorism. 
  • For the EU, to claim that the situation in the region has deteriorated as a result of Operation Olive Branch carried out by Turkey is to negate all that our country, which hosts 4 million refugees, has done in the area of humanitarian aid. 
  • There is an inability to set forth an unbiased perspective on the Cyprus issue in the report. While there are references in the report to Turkey's support for negotiations between the two parties, Turkey's stance on the exploration carried out by the Greek Cypriot Administration for natural resources in the Mediterranean is criticised. (The EU demonstrated its unconditional support for the Greek Cypriot side in the statement it made at the EU-Turkey Summit in Varna.)
  • I must once again remind you that Turkey supports a comprehensive and permanent settlement based on political equality and bi-zonality in Cyprus.  If the EU sets aside this biased point of view, this will contribute to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. The EU needs to take into account the realities of the situation in Cyprus, encourage a settlement and to refrain from making an issue that is between Turkey and the Greek Cypriot Administration into an EU matter. This is necessary above all for its own impartiality, consistency and credibility.  
  • Furthermore, it is difficult to understand why the Commission includes an assessment of Turkey's bilateral relations with EU Member States in the report which is prepared to evaluate Turkey's process of alignment with the EU. Furthermore, regarding relations with EU Member States, it is also unacceptable for us that the EU criticises Turkey under a guise of solidarity with these countries even when they are not justified. If the EU is committed to the values, it should be more objective. This only demonstrates the extent to which the report has become politicised.

Distinguished Members of the Press,

  • It is confirmed in the report that various levels of progress have been achieved in twenty chapters.  Regarding the overall level of alignment, it is emphasized in the report that the level of alignment is advanced in 23 chapters. 
  • If the EU wishes to be a genuine normative power founded on certain values and sincerely adhere to these values in its relations with Turkey, it needs to swiftly open Chapters 23 and 24 to negotiations.
  • Otherwise, we will treat the EU criticisms regarding Turkey merely as "excuses" to prevent Turkey's EU membership.
  • The statement in the report that Turkey is moving away from the EU is unacceptable for us. Has the EU considered the possibility that it is in fact alienating Turkey by its own actions?
  • As has been indicated in the earlier country reports, the full potential of EU-Turkey relations can be realised only in the framework of a clear full membership perspective and a credible accession process. This is a matter I would especially like to emphasise.
  • I would like to emphasise that we regret to see that the section on the economic criteria in the report includes political evaluations.
  • On this occasion, I would like to remind you that the decision to cut IPA funding is a highly unfortunate one on behalf of the EU.
  • It is clear that the pre-accession financial assistance does not "financially" involve large numbers. A cut in IPA funds will not affect an economy as large as the Turkish economy.
  • What is important here is the use of the financial assistance through projects and gains attained in this process.
  • Cutting financial assistance even while accession negotiations have stalled due to political reasons will not only slow down Turkey's alignment process but also decrease public support for the EU accession process in Turkey. It will have no other concrete results.

Distinguished Members of the Press,

  • Clearly, overcoming the problems in EU-Turkey relations will result in significant gains not only for Turkey and the EU but also for our region, international system and global peace.
  • We do not want to move away from the EU. On the contrary, we would like our accession negotiations to proceed unhindered and continue with our work for alignment with the EU.  As a country advancing on the path to EU membership, Turkey will have a favourable impact on stability in its region (the Balkans and the Middle East). Turkey will facilitate the resolution of many problematic issues ranging from energy to migration and from terrorism to radicalisation, hostility to Islam and xenophobia, with an increase in the sense of empathy and trust between the EU and Turkey.
  • Turkey is fully committed on this matter. In fact, I see the manifestation of this will in many leaders of EU Member States and our expectation from the EU now is to institutionalise this will.

I would like to thank you all for your participation.

For the Turkey 2018 Report published on the European Commission website https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/countries/package_en please click

For the Turkish translation of Turkey 2018 Report please click

For the 2018 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy published on the European Commission website https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/countries/package_en please click

For the 2018 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy (Sections relevant for Turkey) please click

For the Turkish translation of 2018 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy (Sections relevant for Turkey) please click

Updated: 02/05/2018 / Hit: 9,437