STRASBOURG, France – The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, urged Turkey on Wednesday to stop insulting the leaders of European Union countries as well as to free journalists arbitrarily imprisoned by Turkish authorities.
Speaking to the European Parliament during his annual State of the European Union address, Juncker said Turkey had for a while been rapidly distancing itself from the EU.
“Let our journalists go. And not just them either. Stop insulting our Member States by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis,” he told the country. “Europe is a continent of mature democracies.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the German government of behaving like Nazis when Berlin refused to issue permits to Turkish politicians who sought to hold rallies in Germany in an attempt to sway the vote of the millions of ethnic Turks there ahead of a controversial referendum to grant Erdogan more powers.
The war of words further escalated when Ankara denounced Germany for supposedly harboring terrorists belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PPK) and the brotherhood of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkish officials hold responsible for an attempted coup d’etat in July 2016.
Juncker insisted that insults would only lead to roadblocks, but that the EU would always keep its hands outstretched to those who share its values and are ready to work together.
“Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is intentionally placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks,” he told the EP.
The Commission chief said that it was clear that the EU would not be welcoming any new members during this mandate as no candidate was prepared.
“Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority,” said Juncker.
“This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future,” he added.