Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to put an end to his country’s longstanding but deadlocked membership negotiations with the European Union, first clear signal that Ankara may finally halt its drive to join the bloc.
Mr. Erdogan continued leveling blows against European countries on Tuesday, particularly Germany and the Netherlands, accusing them of harboring “terrorists.” He claimed that European nations do not want a favorable outcome in April 16 referendum that is poised to expand his presidential powers.
If Mr. Erdogan adds another victory in his impeccable record in votes, he will be bestowed with sweeping powers. Critics argue that the proposed constitutional changes will weaken checks and balances, diminish the role of the legislative body and tighten control over the judiciary.
The president said Turkey won’t allow any spies — individuals or institutions — from Europe to operate in Turkey under the guise of different masks. “European Union membership talks, Readmission Deal, this or that… They won’t be able to threaten us with any of this. These things are over,” Mr. Erdogan said.
It is not clear if the president was bluffing as part of his campaign rhetoric, or if he genuinely interested in halting the EU negotiations after the referendum.
The accession negotiations with Turkey have started in 2005, but stalled in the past 5 years. Last year, the European Parliament asked the Commission to formally suspend Ankara’s EU bid over its gross human rights violations.
“Let us shift to presidential government system after April 16. Then a very different Turkey will be born,” Mr. Erdogan promised.
The downward spiral in already soured relations set to take a new troubling turn with President Erdogan’s promise, undermining the already dim prospect of Turkey’s membership.
Despite for all odds and problems that deadlocked the accession process, the EU officials do not want to halt entire negotiations to avoid losing any leverage over Turkey. This point was made clear by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who rejected calls from EU leaders for an end of talks with Turkey.
“It makes no sense to try to calm (Erdogan’s) nerves by stopping negotiations that are not even taking place,” Mr. Juncker said.
But he warned on Sunday that reinstating the death penalty in Turkey would be a red line that would directly lead to the end of negotiations.
Indifferent to EU reaction and warnings, President Erdogan on Saturday broached the subject and vowed to bring back capital punishment once his constitutional amendment is blessed by people in the referendum.
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