Turkey rejects allegations in EU report

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    Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized a European Commission report on Ankara’s bid to join the European Union, saying certain general allegations, accusations and comments targeting the country are “unacceptable”.

    “Unfortunately, the European Commission showed that it was once again unwilling to understand the difficulties of the period we are passing through,” the ministry said in a statement on the 2018 Turkey Country Report and Enlargement Strategy Paper.

    It added that the commission was unable to be objective and balanced even though “we have explained these issues repeatedly, supported by documentation”.

    In the report, the European Commission praised Turkey’s migration policy, economic growth and strengthening regional cooperation but also claimed there was "serious backsliding on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression".

    The ministry countered the claims, saying "Turkey is fighting simultaneously against several terrorist organizations, particularly the PKK, Daesh and FETO. In this respect, we think that not mentioning in the report the threat from FETO, which cowardly attacked our State, our Parliament and our people, is a critical deficiency".

    "In the report, although Turkey’s legitimate right to take immediate and proportional measures particularly following the July 15 terrorist coup attempt is reiterated, we observe that baseless allegations and accusations taken from obvious circles have also been included," it said.

    "Turkey continues its transparent cooperation with all related international partners including the European Union with regards to the measures taken in the context of the State of Emergency, firstly for the purpose of protecting its citizens’ democratic rights and freedoms, and conveys clearly the nature, the relevant security threats and legal frameworks of these measures to its addressees. This being the case, certain general allegations, accusations and comments targeting Turkey in the report are unacceptable."

    The ministry also hailed the ongoing Operation Olive Branch as a "counter-terrorism operation aimed at eliminating the terror threat against Turkey and on the basis of the right to self-defense".

    "It has set an example on how to combat terrorism without harming civilians. For success in the fight against terrorism, the international community as a whole, including the EU, has to be consistent vis-a-vis terrorism and refrain from making distinctions among terrorist organizations," it said.

    "In sum, the report is far from understanding the realities of Turkey and thus far from serving its purpose. In addition, it places the unfair interests of its obvious members before a universal concept such as the rule of law and thus negates the EU’s own values."

    The ministry reiterated that Turkey's EU membership aspirations remain "a strategic priority, despite all the negativity in the EU's approach".

    The report on Turkey, formerly called the Progress Report, again includes the PKK on the EU list of terrorist groups, while the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) — the group behind the July 2016 defeated coup attempt in Turkey which left 250 people martyred and some 2,200 injured — is not described as a terrorist group.

    The report called the defeated coup "a traumatic period in Turkey".

    "The EU, which immediately and strongly condemned the attempted coup, reiterated its full support for the country's democratic institutions and recognized Turkey's legitimate need to take swift and proportionate action in the face of such a serious threat," it said.

    Turkey has criticized the EU for in fact being slow to denounce the defeated coup as well as failing to condemn the group behind it.

    The report criticized widespread dismissals in the defeated coup’s wake of accused coup-plotters as Turkey has accused FETO of extensive infiltration of public institutions such as the military, judiciary and education system.

    The report's description of FETO is unchanged from the 2016 report, which called the terrorist group the "Gulen movement".

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