Bloc membership scrutinised
In the face of increasing criticism and worsening relations, the European Union and Turkey have launched into a war of words over whether Ankara’s bid to join the EU should continue.
In a high-stakes game of political chicken, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the EU wouldn’t be able to reach the “final point” and end its ties with Turkey out of fears of jeopardising a deal to curb the flow of migrants from Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
Hours in Brussels, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn bluntly said that “it is time Ankara tells us what they really want”, in the wake of a report assessing Turkey’s status as a candidate for membership that highlighted what the EU saw as backsliding on essential human right and rule of law standards.
The report, issued yesterday, came after Turkey’s clampdown on media freedoms and the arrests of 10 pro-Kurdish legislators.
“These various actions, including considerations of reintroducing the later, death penalty, seem to be increasingly incompatible with Turkey’s official desire to become a member of the European Union,” Hahn said. “In its own interest, Turkey urgently needs to stop moving away from the EU.”
In the escalating stand-off on Turkey’s protracted membership bid, Erdogan rose to the challenge. “They say unabashedly and shamelessly that the EU should review its negotiations with Turkey,” Erdogan told a business group in Istanbul.
“You are late, go and review them as soon as you can. But don’t just review them – go and make your final decision.”
The Turkish leader added: “You know those three million refugees in Turkey? They say there is a problem. What if the negotiations end and they open the gates, where would we put those three million refugees? That is their worry. That is why they cannot come to the end point.”
In March, Turkey and the EU reached an agreement in which Turkey would stem the flow of migrants to Greece in return for a package of incentives.