Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey President says EU must decide on membership

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said ahead of crunch talks with the EU's leadership it was up to Brussels to decide if it wanted Turkey as a member of the bloc.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan play

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

(AFP)
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said ahead of crunch talks with the EU's leadership it was up to Brussels to decide if it wanted Turkey as a member of the bloc.

Speaking to reporters before leaving Ankara airport for the trip to Brussels which will also see him attend a NATO summit, Erdogan said Turkey was not prepared to behave like a "beggar" to gain membership.

Tensions between Ankara and Brussels spiralled in the run-up to the April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers, raising questions about the future of the Turkish membership bid.

Erdogan will on Thursday meet EU president Donald Tusk and commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in what has been billed as a major chance to salvage the over half-century membership bid.

"The EU has no right to see Turkey as a beggar. We are going to tell them this. What are you still waiting for after 54 years?" he said, repeating Ankara's frustration with the length of the membership process.

"I know that they are waiting for us to withdraw (the membership bid). But we say it's for you to decide. And if you decide we won't complicate your job," he added.

In the run-up to the referendum -- which he narrowly won -- Erdogan had mooted reimposing the death penalty in Turkey, a move that would automatically end its EU bid.

But in a keynote speech on Sunday to his ruling party, Erdogan made no mention of the death penalty and reaffirmed Ankara's ambition to join the EU.

Most EU states -- led by Germany -- oppose freezing accession talks with Turkey but Austria has strongly backed halting the membership process.

This prompted Turkey to veto all NATO cooperation with neutral Austria, although the crisis was partially resolved with a deal on Tuesday.

"To keep it short, if you block, you get blocked (in return). It's really that simple," said Erdogan.

Meanwhile NATO ally Germany has warned it could relocate military personnel stationed at the Incirlik airbase close to Syria to another location, likely Jordan, due to the tensions.

But Erdogan said Berlin had given no indication that it was pulling out its forces. "Whether this happens or not is not actually important. If they go then we will wave them goodbye," he said.

Erdogan said the Manchester attack had underlined that global cooperation was needed in the fight against terror which was "not the problem of a single country".

"It is essential that the NATO allies show full solidarity and cooperation," he said.

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