President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reacted against Turkey’s EU accession bid coming up as an issue during England’s ongoing EU referendum campaigns and against the prolonging of the accession talks. He has signaled that Turkey’s accession issue could also be taken on to a referendum if necessary.
Giving a speech during the graduation ceremony of İstanbul’s Fatih Sultan Mehmet University, the President criticized England’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks on Turkey not being likely to have a chance ‘to become an EU member until the year 3000’ and said, “You did not talk like this when we got together, Cameron… This is not what you had told us. He had always said to us this: ‘We are always with you. We are giving every effort for Turkey to join the European Union as soon as possible.’ What happened now?”
Reminding that the first step of Turkey’s EU membership bid was taken in 1963, Erdoğan said, “53 years have passed and you are still stalling off. Why are you stalling off? I have not been saying this much until now; I used to mention it only during private conversations. But, EU! You do not accept us because a great majority of our people are Muslims. You cannot prove it otherwise.”
‘A test of sincerity’
Erdoğan has stated that a former Foreign Minister had talked to him about this issue overtly: “He said, ‘They won’t accept you to the EU. Your efforts are useless.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ And, he said, ‘You are Muslims.’ ‘We know this, too but still we will see. We’ve started on this road; it’s a test of sincerity,’ I said.”
However, Erdoğan did not say who the former French Foreign Minister he had talked to was.
Claiming that Turkey also needs to make a decision about its EU accession bid, Erdoğan said that a referendum like the one in England can take place in Turkey, too. He continued by saying, “We can ask the people ‘Shall we go on or stop with the EU accession talks?’ If my people say ‘go on’, we will go on.”