Hélène Flautre, co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, said in a written statement released on Wednesday that her home country of France as well as Germany and Greek Cyprus have been harming Europe's long-term interests with their constant objections to Turkey's EU membership process.
Flautre's statement came on Wednesday, the same day that the EU 2011 Progress Report was released by the European Commission in Brussels.
The European Commission urged the EU to continue talks with Turkey but said no progress had been achieved in the last year. It also expressed concern about tensions between Ankara and EU-member Cyprus. Opposition from Greek Cyprus and French and German reluctance to admit the largely Muslim nation are the main obstacles to Turkish membership, and a “privileged partnership” has been mooted as an alternative to regular membership.
"While the commission is going through the motions with its progress report on Turkey, clearly the overriding concern should be the standstill in EU-Turkey relations and the fact that the accession process has all but ground to a halt,” Flautre said.
“That the negotiating chapters on fundamental rights are being blocked at a time when Turkey is discussing constitutional and judicial reforms is wrongheaded. This is a real threat to the efforts being made in Turkey as regards democratic reform and the EU's ability to positively influence this,” she pointed out.
"There is a core of EU member states [notably Germany, France and Cyprus] that wants to block Turkey's EU accession regardless of any ‘progress,' and, as a result, the EU is effectively no longer able to positively influence the reform process in Turkey. This is inimical to the long-term interests of Europe,” she added.
As EU talks drag on, Turkey has failed this year to open even one new chapter, or policy area, of the 35 that a candidate country must complete before it can join the bloc.
Since membership talks started, Turkey has opened 13 chapters. Most of the rest are “frozen” by political disputes between Ankara and EU capitals.
The EU has been considered “the engine” of the reform process in the country since Turkey was given membership candidate status in 1999. Flautre's statement marked the first time that a member of the European Parliament accused the EU of threatening the reform process in Turkey.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that the absence of progress in negotiations with Turkey is “saddening,” as he called Turkey a country “vitally important” for the EU.
In Ankara, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the assessments within the EU progress report strengthen the impression that while preparing the report the focus was on expectations and shortcomings rather than progress in Turkey and that such an approach is not conducive to an objective and fair evaluation. Turkey added that its efforts to enact reforms and achieve harmonization with the acquis will continue, with increasing promptness, and that many of the expectations and suggestions cited in the report correspond to areas in which Turkey envisages more progress within the framework of the reform process.
The ministry also criticized the report's assessment of the Cyprus issue and said the solution to the Cyprus problem and Turkey's membership in the 27-member club are two different processes.
“Turkey fully supports the intensive and sincere efforts resolutely carried out by the Turkish Cypriot side to reach a comprehensive settlement agreement by the end of the year in line with the expectations of the UN secretary-general. This being the case, we regret that the Enlargement Strategy Document contains language concerning the expectation that Turkey will increase its contribution to the negotiations,” the ministry said.