World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkey on Saturday rejected European Union criticism of its handling of anti-government protests earlier this year, but said a report on its progress towards joining the bloc showed it had come closer to European economic and democratic standards.
In the government's first official response to the commission's report, released on Wednesday, EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said the European Commission's support for fresh talks on a new policy area proved Turkey was making progress in the reform process.
"It is pleasing that Turkish government's reform works in different fields took place in the progress report positively," said Bagis, adding, "The report also praised democratization package announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan."
He said, "It will not be wrong to describe EU's 2013 progress report on Turkey as a certificate of incorporation in terms of Turkey's determination on reforms. As the report states, our government is tied to democratization progress and reforms. Our reform perspective will continue with the same determination. "
The report on Turkish efforts to meet requirements to join the 28-nation EU may help breathe new life into Turkey's EU bid by backing the opening of talks on a new chapter.
But it also accused Turkish police of using excessive force to quell anti-government protests earlier this year and urged authorities to strengthen oversight of the police and to press ahead with investigations into their conduct.
Bagis dismissed the report's criticism of how the government handled the protests.
"We consider it important to emphasise that we will never view efforts that employ violence and illegal methods against the peace of our nation and people as a struggle for rights," he said.
But Bagis added, "Progress report is not a ration card for Turkey. The only post to give a ration card to Turkey is nation."
On Cyprus issue, the Turkish minister stated that Turkey would never be the side, which escapes the solution, adding, "We expect the Greek Cypriot side to take the same brave steps with Turkey."
Egemen Bagis also talked about the visa exemption.
"Entering European countries without visa is right of Turkish people. We will be strict follower of our rights arising from the Ankara Agreement that we signed 50 years ago," he noted.
Bagis said he waited three days to respond to the report to protest its publication coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, when Turkish government offices are closed.Last Mod: 19 Ekim 2013, 15:48