ISTANBUL: Turkey's economy minister condemned the European Union on Tuesday as the most hypocritical organisation in the world, in vitriolic remarks which underlined the EU candidate country's growing alienation from Brussels.
Turkey's bid to join the bloc has virtually ground to a halt in recent years due to opposition from core EU members and the failure to find a solution to the dispute over the divided island of Cyprus.
Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said it made him laugh when he heard the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize last week for promoting peace, democracy and human rights over six decades.
"The EU is the most two-faced union of all time. It is the most hypocritical organisation in the world. This EU has kept Turkey waiting at its door for 50 years," state-run Anatolian news agency reported Caglayan as saying.
He attacked the EU for imposing visa requirements on Turkish business visitors and quotas on goods, describing this as a "a crime against humanity" and "torture" and condemned the award of the Nobel prize to a body responsible for unfair competition.
"If you award the EU with a prize for duplicity or hypocrisy, rather than one for peace, then we'd say fair enough, we accept that," he said.
The European Union remains Turkey's largest trading partner but the dwindling interest at the political level was illustrated at the congress of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party at the end of last month.
Erdogan's extended greetings focused on former Ottoman territories and Muslim countries but left out the EU.
Ankara's ambitions to join the EU were a dominant theme at previous party summits. Turkey began talks on joining the EU in 2005 but has only completed only one of 35 policy "chapters" every accession candidate must conclude.
All but 13 policy chapters in Ankara's negotiations are blocked and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, says Turkey does not yet meet required standards on human rights and freedom of speech.
Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis told Reuters that Erdogan deliberately chose not to refer specifically to Europe at the party congress as a "message to the narrow-minded politicians of Europe".
But Ankara is not ready to give up on Brussels yet.
Buried near the back of its new 70-page manifesto, the AK Party reaffirmed its goal for full EU membership, calling on European leaders to "speed up" negotiations.