Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union appears to be in jeopardy after the bloc's executive branch on Tuesday said it is displeased by what it called Ankara's failures to sustain democracy and fight corruption.
In its annual report on the country, the European Commission cited too much political power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has resulted in a poor economy and eroded the independence of the judiciary. The report also said Turkish authorities continue to pressure civil society, aid groups and the media.
"Turkey remains a key partner for the European Union. However, Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union with serious backsliding in the areas of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary," the commission said.
But Turkey, which began its EU membership talks in 2005, rejected the commission's criticisms, describing them as prejudiced, according to the AP.
Turkey's bid to become a member of the EU has not been an easy one in spite of its position as an important socio-economic partner to the EU, in part because Turkey has helped prevent migrants from entering the bloc through its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.
For this reason, the EU has paid Turkey about $7 billion to motivate Ankara to stop Syrian refugees in the country from heading to Europe.
Nonetheless, Turkish disputed claims over Cyprus and Erdogan's crackdown on perceived opponents since a failed coup in 2016 have ruined much of the progress made in becoming the 28th member of the EU.
"The report presented today confirms that the underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold, despite the government's repeated commitment to the objective of EU accession," said the commission.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the report reflects "the EU's prejudiced, unconstructive and double-standard approach." The report failed to mention the EU's own "responsibilities and commitments" and criticized Turkey with "unfounded arguments," the ministry said in a statement.
"Our sincere wish is for the EU to look at the EU candidate country Turkey, not through the selfish and narrow vision of certain circles, but through the common interest and vision of our continent," it said.