"EU report on Turkey out of focus"
Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bagis criticized the European Union after it expressed concern in a regular progress report over freedom of expression and said Turkey should do more to normalize its relations with Greek Cyprus. Bagis, speaking at a press conference soon after the release of the annual report in Brussels, said the report was out of focus. "Although the report tries to take an objective and balanced picture of Turkey, we think that the camera used by the commission is old with a worn out lens and the lens needs to be changed, as the picture taken has lots of blurred parts and the camera seems to be zooming on the false points," Bagis said. In its report, the European Commission urged the European Union to continue accession talks with Turkey but said no progress was achieved in the last year. It also expressed concern about tensions between Ankara and EU-member Greek Cyprus. In a reference to a recent spat over gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, the Commission told Ankara to avoid threats that could further damage ties. On individual freedoms, the report said "significant further efforts are required to guarantee fundamental rights in most areas," highlighting in particular concerns in the area of freedom of expression. "...The number of court cases against writers and journalists and the still frequent disproportionate website bans raised serious concerns," the report said. Bagis said no journalist was in jail in Turkey for journalistic activities, saying journalists do not have criminal immunity just because they are journalists. In addition to the EU's reform concerns, opposition from Greek Cyprus as well as French and German reluctance to admit the largely Muslim state is also a main obstacle to Turkish membership, with a "privileged partnership" being mooted as an alternative to regular membership. "Full membership to the union is Turkey's only goal, no other goals can be accepted," Bagis told the news conference. "We hope that the EU will soon emerge from its eclipse of the mind," he added in comments on the report.