Turkey’s vote could mean the end of a courtship to join the EU
The New York Times
BERLIN — The long flirtation may finally be over.
For decades, the European Union dangled the possibility of membership before an eager suitor in Turkey. But it was never a perfect match. Too many Europeans had reservations about having a predominantly Muslim state, with porous and volatile borders and a checkered human rights record, come inside the tent. The Turkish government was left feeling bitter, resentful and disrespected.
The result of Turkey’s referendum Sunday could snuff what was left of that EU-Turkey courtship, several analysts said Monday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed a victory that strengthens his near-authoritarian powers, dismissing criticism of the result by Turkish opposition parties, European election observers and protesters while making clear his government was moving on.
“Debate about this issue is now over,” he said in an occasionally combative speech at his sprawling presidential palace that referenced the 25 million voters who had supported the measure in a narrow win, with 51.4 percent approving a series of constitutional changes converting Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary to a presidential one.
Depending on the view, the result either fulfilled the worst suspicions the Europeans had harbored of Turkey for so long, or it was the unavoidable outcome of their snub. In any case, the question now is what kind of relationship it will be.
Austria’s conservative foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, urged Europeans to recognize at last that it was fruitless to pursue closer ties with Turkey.
“End the talks on joining and work on a neighborhood treaty,” Mr. Kurz wrote on Twitter.
But the calculations may be shifting for both sides. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan appeared almost blasé about accession talks with the bloc, saying that it did not matter if they were suspended, as long as Turkey was informed, and that Turkey could hold a referendum on them, if necessary.
“For54years,theymadeus wait at the gates of the EU,” he said, the state-run Anadolu newsagencyreported.“Wesit down, discuss, we will make another vote of confidence for that,too.”
Meanwhile on Monday, a White House statement said President Donald Trump had congratulated Mr. Erdogan on his victory in a telephone call, then quickly pivoted to thanking Turkey for supporting American military strikes this month to punish the government of President Bashar Assad of Syria for launching a chemical weapons attack in rebelheld territory. The statement, issued Monday night, did not note any concerns or criticism of Mr. Erdogan, or his government’s civil rights abuses.
Back in Turkey, the main opposition party — the Republican People’s Party, or CHP — on Monday urged the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.
The referendum was held with a state of emergency still in place, imposed after the attempted coup in July.
On Monday, the country’s Council of Ministers decided to extend the state of emergency, which grants greater powers of detention and arrest to security forces, for a further three months. It had been due to expire April 19. The decision was to be sent to parliament for approval.