Turkey doesn’t need the European Union, said the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday, echoing his comments about the US from the day before.
“If you’re honest, make your statement and we will finish the job. We don’t need you,” said Erdoğan while addressing regional delegates representing his Justice and Development Party (AKP) at an Ankara meeting according to a report in Hürriyet Daily News.
The EU has been “keeping Turkey waiting for 54 years” he added, referring to the country’s long bid to join the European fold. “They do not accept us. But have they put an end [to] the process? No. They are still wasting our time. But we are being patient.”
He also criticised the EU for failing to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel in the Schengen zone in keeping with a March 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels to stem the flow of irregular migrants and refugees into Europe.
The President has lashed out at the EU on other occasions, calling the bloc a “Crusader Alliance” at a campaign rally in the lead up to last April’s referendum on changes to the Turkish constitution. “The situation is quite loud and clear, it is a Crusader Alliance. April 16 will also be the day to evaluate this,” he told supporters, indicating that a yes vote would also be a call to reconsider Turkish attempts to join the union.
Turkey has been an EU candidate country since December 1999 and embarked on accession negotiations with Brussels in 2005. Talks have stalled with just one of 35 chapters provisionally closed and 15 open.
The relationship was further soured in July after the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in favour of suspending negotiations with Turkey if it implemented the constitutional amendments carried by the April referendum result without changes. Ankara’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik denounced the vote saying the parliament had “no right to make such a call”.
For its part, Brussels claims to be holding Turkey at arms length due to an increasing conflict of principles. “Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his annual state of the union speech to the European Parliament last month. “Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority. This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.”
His comments come as the EU has grown increasingly critical of the Turkish Government’s crackdown on those alleged to be complicit in the bloody failed coup attempt on 15 July last year, as well as its talk of re-introducing the death penalty. Turkish officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek on the other hand have accused the EU of not understanding Turkey’s difficult situation adequately.