Turkey got a sharp reminder that European Union membership is nowhere in sight as a result of growing EU concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on political opponents and his bashing of countries in the bloc.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, used an annual State of the Union speech on Wednesday to pour scorn over Erdogan’s track record since he survived a coup attempt in mid-2016.
“Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds,” Juncker, who heads the EU’s executive arm, said in the televised address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “That rules out EU membership for Turkey in the foreseeable future.”
Turkey, which has been seeking to join the EU since the 1980s and began accession negotiations in 2005, has jailed dozens of journalists and opposition politicians and dismissed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police and academics in response to the failed coup.
‘Fascists and Nazis’
Events surrounding an April referendum that vastly expanded Erdogan’s powers have led to a further deterioration in EU-Turkey relations. Erdogan accused European countries of taking sides before the ballot, likening some to fascist dictatorships because they blocked campaigning among Turkish expatriates.
“Journalists belong in editorial offices amid heated debate and not in prison,” said Juncker, prompting applause from EU Parliament members. “Stop calling our member states and our heads of state and government fascists and Nazis.”
Juncker said Turkey needs to show more respect for the EU, where the membership bid by the mainly Muslim country has always been politically divisive. His latest comments are a barometer of the political mood in EU national capitals regarding Erdogan, whose support for a 2016 pact stemming a wave of Mideastern refugees into the bloc its leaders are still counting on.
“Europe is a continent of mature democracies,” Juncker said. “Those who knowingly offend pull up the drawbridge.”