The EU has reaffirmed the importance it attaches to its relations with Turkey, in the wake of an exchange of criticism from both sides in the recent days.
"Turkey is a candidate country and a key partner for the EU," the Council of the European Union said on Tuesday in its enlargement resolution.
Turkey’s dynamic economy provides a valuable contribution to the prosperity of the European continent, the council said.
The 28-nation-bloc’s annual enlargement resolution on EU candidate countries, including Turkey, comes a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the EU on Tuesday for its “impetuous” criticism of an ongoing judicial probe against "the parallel state," which has seen the arrests of high-profile media members and police officers in Turkey.
The “parallel state” is what the Turkish government calls the inner circle of Gulen Movement operating on a secret agenda and known for its attempts to overthrow the elected government via their influence on judiciary, police force and the bureaucracy. Gulen schools known for serving as recruitment places for the candidates that would serve under this inner circle on a hidden agenda.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was surprised about President Erdogan’s comments on Monday.
The EU’s enlargement resolution discusses what it calls Turkey’s ''important regional role,'' and its involvement in the region. It also welcomes Turkey’s reception and sheltering of well over one million refugees fleeing the violence in Syria.
''The very serious developments in the region, in particular in Syria and Iraq, render it crucial that dialogue and cooperation on foreign policy issues is increased within the framework of the EU-Turkey political dialogue,'' the council said.
The council also praises Turkey’s implementation of reforms adopted in previous years, such as the September 2013 democratization package, and says it ''strongly supports Turkey’s renewed efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue.''
However, the EU urges Turkey to work on reforms which it said: ''should provide for adequate checks and balances fully guaranteeing freedom, including freedom of thought, expression and of the media, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.''
Additionally, Turkey’s opposition parties have also expressed their opinions over President Erdogan’s criticism of Mogherini’s comments.
Akif Hamzacebi, the deputy parliamentary group chair of the Republican People's Party (CHP), says that EU membership is vital for Turkey since the country has turned its path to the West and there is no turning back.
“Yet President Erdogan has never planned a full membership for EU, but preferred to stay on the path in order to use it as domestic political maneuver,” said Hamzacebi.
Critical comments from the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) came at the same time as those of the CHP.
Oktay Vural, the deputy parliamentary group chair of MHP, said that Turkey earlier enacted many laws in order to adopt EU with celebrations.
“If Turkey is planning to stop negotiations for EU membership, Turkey’s European Union Ministry should be shut down, and the Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkir should resign his position,” said Vural on Tuesday at a press conference.