Erdogan: EU trying to compel Turkey to withdraw from accession process

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the European Union of “trying to compel” Turkey to abandon its bid to join the EU.

“The European Union is trying to compel us to withdraw from this (accession) process. If they don’t want us, they should be clear about this. They should make a decision,” Erdogan said in an interview with Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News on Sunday.

“Our patience is not endless,” the Turkish president stated.

“If need be, later, we could also consult our people,” he added, in an apparent reference to Britain’s referendum in June to leave the EU that is commonly known as Brexit.

This is not the first time Erdogan has threatened Brussels to hold a referendum on whether to press on for the EU membership.

On June 22, the Turkish president warned that Ankara “will go and ask the public whether we should continue negotiations with the EU.” He added that the EU did not want Turkey because the “majority is Muslim.”

Ankara routinely alleges that the European Union treats Turkey differently compared to other countries seeking the EU membership.

Turkey has been trying to join the EU since the 1960s. The formal negotiations started in 2005. Only 16 chapters of the 35-chapter accession process have been opened for Ankara so far.

Turkey and the European Union even reached a landmark deal in March to stem the unprecedented flow of refugees into Europe. Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to receive all refugees landing on the coasts of Greece in return for concessions, including billions of dollars in funding, accelerated talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU, and visa-free travel for Turks to the Schengen Area.

The process of accession has been marred by Ankara’s widespread crackdown in the wake of the mid-July failed coup against Erdogan.

Since July 16, when Turkey declared the one-day coup attempt over, the government has arrested over 35,000 people and suspended or fired more than 100,000 from their positions in the military and public institutions. Brussels has criticized Ankara’s actions, saying they are beyond the rule of law.

Turkish police push away protesters in Kadikoy district in Istanbul during a demonstration against the arrest of nine members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), November 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey’s bumpy road to the EU membership has become more twisted since President Erdogan and some other senior officials brought up the notion of reviving the death penalty.

The restoration of the death penalty, which was annulled in 2004 under reforms aimed at joining the European Union, would pave the way for the execution of those believed to have been involved in the failed coup.

On Saturday, Erdogan said the revival of the death penalty was on the government’s agenda. Ankara will decide whether to reintroduce the death penalty, not the West, he added.

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