Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Brussels of pressing Ankara to give up its bid to join the EU. Noting that Ankara’s patience “has limits,” Erdogan hinted he might hold a referendum on the question of Turkey’s accession to the bloc.
“The European Union is pressing us to withdraw from our [accession] process. If they don’t want us, they should make a decision and speak clearly about it,” Erdogan told the Hurriyet daily on Sunday.
“Our patience has its limits. If need be, we could also consult our people. Let’s see what the people will say,” he said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Erdogan noted that Turkey is currently hosting 3 million refugees on its territory, adding that if they all marched into Europe, the Europeans would not know what to do with them. He also reminded Brussels that under the terms of Turkey’s refugee deal with the EU, the union is set to provide €6 billion (US$6.45 billion) in aid over the course of several years.
“As far as I can remember, until now the EU had only given €250-300 million to Turkey so far,” he said.
It came shortly after several officials in Europe voiced concerns that the EU has no contingency plan if the Turkish deal collapses.
“As the deal between the EU and Turkey is turning more and more fragile and the first cracks are becoming visible, we must make sure that we are ready to act,” Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told journalists last Monday.
Ankara began formal accession talks with the EU in 2005. In March 2016, the sides reached what seemed to be a historic deal, sealing a joint plan to tackle the migrant crisis. Ankara promised it would assist the EU in dealing with the influx of refugees and migrants, in exchange for multibillion-euro funding as well as the potential facilitation of EU accession and visa-free travel within the Schengen zone for Turkish citizens.