His comments on Friday came during a visit to Paris, where he held talks his his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.
Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community, a precursor to the EU, in 1987. It became eligible for EU membership in 1997 and accession talks began in 2005. However, these negotiations have been practically frozen, with no progress made in recent years.
‘Real focus’ on Turkey-EU ties
Macron also struck a pessimistic tone about Turkey’s stalled EU bid, saying the dialogue between the two sides should perhaps be “rethought … not in the framework of membership but maybe
of cooperation or or partnership”.
A number of EU member states has condemned the Turkish government’s arrests and purges of tens of thousands of people after a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Local and international rights groups have accused Ankara of using the putsch bid as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.
The government has said the purges and detentions are aimed at removing from state institutions and other parts of society the supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based, self-exiled religious leader blamed by Ankara for the attempted coup.
“Turkey is ruled by law,” Erdogan said at the press conference. “Europe always tells us that judiciary must be independent. Well, in Turkey, our judiciary is independent. They make their own decisions independently.”
For his part, Macron said “democracy must be strong against terrorism because the legitimacy of the state means it must protect its citizens. But at the same time our democracies must respect the rule of law”.
Erdogan’s visit to France was his first since the failed coup attempt, and one of only a handful to Europe. He was confronted by a dozen human rights protesters who attempted to block his arrival to Elysee Palace.
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said that “there was a real focus on Turkey’s relationship with the EU, because it really has deteriorated over the past two years”.
She added that Macron “raised the issue of human rights” but also noted that “he is very pragmatic”.
“He [Macron] does not believe that that should necessarily get in the way of Turkey having a good relationship with France, and Turkey cooperating on issues such as controlling undocumented migration to Europe and the fight against terrorism,'” said Butler.