Erdogan hints at referendum on Turkey joining EU

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after his meeting in the Palace of Independence in Minsk, Belarus on Nov 11, 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after his meeting in the Palace of Independence in Minsk, Belarus on Nov 11, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL • Accusing Brussels of wanting Turkey to give up trying to join the EU, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that he might put the question to a referendum.

"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," Mr Erdogan told the daily Hurriyet, in an interview published yesterday."Our patience is not endless. If need be, later, we could also consult our people," he said, alluding to the UK's Brexit referendum in June.

Turkey's bid to join the EU dates back to the 1960s, with formal talks starting in 2005. But the process has been mired in problems, and Ankara's rocky ties with the EU became more strained in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey in July.

Since then, some 35,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands more have lost their jobs - including military officers, judges, teachers, civil servants and journalists - in a sweeping crackdown against alleged coup supporters.

Its defence ministry yesterday said 168 officers and 123 non-commissioned officers have been suspended from duty over alleged links to the coup.

More than 100 journalists have been arrested while 170 media outlets including newspapers and broadcasters have been closed down, according to the Turkey Journalists' Association.

"Some people are saying we should lift the state of emergency. Why would we lift it now?" Mr Erdogan told Hurriyet.

Last Saturday, he reiterated that he would support Parliament if it voted to restore the death penalty, a move that would further alienate Turkey from its European critics.

On Wednesday, an EU report on candidate countries warned that Turkey's "backsliding" on rights since the coup attempt was putting its membership bid at risk.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Erdogan hints at referendum on Turkey joining EU'. Print Edition | Subscribe