Referendum could decide if Turkey pursues EU membership: Erdogan

Referendum could decide if Turkey pursues EU membership: Erdogan
2 min read
04 October, 2018
Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005 but talks have made little progress.
Erdogan has again suggested a referendum on pursuing EU membership [Getty]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again suggested that a referendum could be held to decide whether Ankara will continue to pursue EU membership.

Speaking at an international forum on Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey and the EU had a lot to contribute to each other.

But he criticised the 28-nation bloc for keeping Turkey waiting at its gates.

Erdogan said: "But if this goes on like this, with this mentality... this is a headline for tomorrow's papers... our duty is probably to go to the 81 million (people in Turkey) and see what the 81 million decide".

Turkey began membership negotiations in 2005 but talks have made little progress due to, among other things, Turkish shortfalls in human rights and the rule of law.

Erdogan also said he would only order his troops to leave Syria once the country held fair elections.

In January, Turkey's minister for EU affairs said Ankara will not accept any partnership deal with the EU that does not amount to full membership.

Omer Celik also warned that the migrant deal Ankara struck with the EU in 2016, which promised in return to speed up its EU accession process, was not working and Turkey had no reason to maintain it.

The comments came after French President Emmanuel Macron brought up the possibility for Turkey to have a partnership-type agreement, in lieu of full EU membership.  

The migrant deal itself has been criticised by the UN and human rights groups, who argue that such arbitrary and collective expulsions of migrants from Greece to Turkey is illegal.

Erdogan has also repeatedly blamed anti-Muslim sentiment as a driving force behind Ankara's slow progress towards EU membership.  

"In Europe, things have become very serious in terms of the extent of Islamophobia. The EU is closing its doors on Turkey and Turkey isn't closing its doors on anybody," he told Reuters in 2017.

"If they're not acting sincerely, we have to find a way out. Why should we wait?", Erdogan added at the time, hinting at a future referendum on EU membership. 

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