Turkısh Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday accused Emmanuel Macron of overstepping his bounds after the French leader denounced the erosion of the rule of law under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
EU leaders have repeatedly expressed concern over the gradual breakdown of the rule of law in Turkey after a failed coup in 2016 prompted a brutal crackdown on dissent. Mr Macron criticised the Turkey’s government’s human rights record during a speech to the Council of Europe, saying that the “decline of the rule of law” in Turkey “had to be the subject of all our vigilance”.
“Mr Macron’s attack on Turkey is a step too far,” Mr Cavusoglu told the state-run news agency Anadolu.
“He reminds me of a rooster crowing while its feet are covered in dirt,” Ankara’s diplomacy chief continued.
EU leaders have repeatedly voiced concern over Turkey’s sacking and arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of soldiers, police, teachers, journalists and civil servants following a failed military coup in July 2016.
They have also strongly condemned a controversial revamping of Turkey’s constitution in 2018 – backed by a referendum that has greatly expanded Mr Erdogan’s presidential powers.
Mr Macron also accused Ankara of using an EU-Turkey migration deal as a bargaining chip to “exert pressure” on the bloc.
Under the 2016 accord, Turkey promised to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visas and renewed talks on joining the EU.
One of the main provisions of the pact was that all migrants arriving on Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast the preferred route at the time would be detained and returned to Turkey unless they successfully applied for asylum in Greece. But Ankara has previously threatened to walk away from the deal, citing frustration over what it says is the bloc’s failure to deliver its side of the bargain. The EU says Turkey must first amend its security laws.
Rights groups, for their part, have repeatedly blasted the deal as inhumane, saying it has left thousands of EU-bound migrants stranded in sordid conditions.
Mr Cavusoglu also hit back at Mr Macron’s migration comments by taking a jab at France’s tough immigration policy.
“How many refugees has Mr Macron allowed into his country?” he mused.
Eyeing re-election in 2022, Mr Macron last month signalled a harder line on immigration, saying that his government had to end its “lax” approach to prevent voters from being wooed by the far right.
“By claiming to be humanist we are sometimes too lax,” he told a meeting of his ministers and ruling La République en Marche (LREM) party representatives, adding that France’s immigration and asylum laws were being “misused” by migrant smugglers and “people who manipulate” the system.
“We’re like the three little monkeys, we don’t want to see,” he said, referring to the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” dictum represented by three monkeys with their hands over their eyes, ears and mouth.
During the 2017 presidential campaign, Mr Macron openly praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to take in over a million Syrian refugees, thanking her and the German people for having “saved our collective dignity”.