President Erdogan of Turkey is well known for stirring up emotions with his European counterparts. His war of words with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany or Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands are spread out widely in Turkish newspapers.
And yesterday he stunned the Turkish readership again.
In a long speech before parliament, the Turkish President claimed: “We don’t need EU membership anymore,” and then went on to say: “We will not be the side which gives up.”
Turkey has been aspiring for EU membership for over a decade now. The debates as to whether the 80 million Muslim country can become a member of the now 28 country (mostly Christian, Protestant or Orthodox) bloc have been drawn out over different subjects and with different politicians in Europe.
During the immigration crisis of 2015-2016, Europe made a deal with Turkey which agreed to close their border to Greece for any Muslim refugee which wanted to cross over to the European side for ‘economic’ reasons rather than to escape the war in Syria. Since then, some 3 million immigrants are housed in a refugee camp on Turkish soil.
The deal was seen as bringing Turkey finally closer to EU membership, but the tide was once again turned with the failed Turkish coup of June 2016. Since then, President Erdogan has arrested some 30,000 political opponents and has asked his parliament to re-instate the death penalty.
These two facts have angered EU politicians who have stated that Turkey cannot ascend into EU talks whilst applying the death penalty (which has been abolished in all member states-) and, more importantly, that Turkey is lacking credible opposition.
Furthermore, due to a string of terrorist attacks allover Turkey in 2016, Germany has assigned it as non-safe for tourists, meaning the Turkish tourism industry suffered a severe slump.
Lastly, the ties between Russia’s President Putin and Turkey’s President Erdogan have grown ever since the two started cooperating in Syria and Turkey, a Nato member, bought missile systems from Russia last month. This also spells trouble for the EU.