ANKARA (Hetq)–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week shot back at the European Union for criticizing freedom of press in Turkey in its annual progress report on the Islamic country, saying that Europe had more to gain from Turkey’s membership than it did and that the European Union would never be a global power if it refused to admit Turkey.
The EU progress report pointed out that journalists in Turkey routinely face prosecution and conviction for writing about “taboo” subjects. An irritated Erdogan shot back saying that freedoms, including those of the press are not limitless.
“Is the freedom of press limitless? It is limited… Freedoms will never be limitless and the judicial dimension will always exist,” Erdogan said at a news conference before leaving for South Korea to attend the G-20 summit.
In its report, the European Union Commission concluded that Turkey progressed towards meeting the criteria of the EU accession process, especially due to the constitutional reform package. The Commission pointed out the need for further improvement of fundamental rights, particularly in implementing freedom of expression in practice.
EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule stated: “Despite overall progress in 2009, we are concerned that Turkey’s accession process is losing its momentum. The key to changing this is primarily with Turkey, which is expected to fully implement its current contractual relations with the EU – the Customs Union – before it can gear up to full membership of the Union.”
The report singled out Turkey’s failure to open its ports and airports to shipping from Greek Cyprus and the fact that no progress has been made in normalizing relations between Turkey and Greek Cyprus and Armenia as stumbling blocks to Turkish EU accession.
It also noted the fact the murder trial of slain Agos editor Hrant Dink is still underway, almost three years after the Turkish-Armenian journalist was slain.