EU membership is not a must for Turkey, Prime Minister Erdoğan said yesterday, in Turkey’s latest criticism of the bloc.
“Turkey continues the EU membership process without slowing down. Since 1963 we kept our patience but they keep delaying the process except three points.
The Customs Union in 1996, Helsinki Summit [Turkey was declared an EU candidate country at the Helsinki Summit in 1999] and the start of negotiations. Except for these they keep delaying us. They did not apply these procedures to other countries. This is disrespect,” Erdoğan told reporters yesterday in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
“The EU is not a must for Turkey. It is not the Apocalypse if they do not let us in the EU. We would continue our way in steadiness.”
Commenting on a recent debate on a possible membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the prime minister said they could apply to such organizations at any time. “We would apply to the SCO or Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). No one has the right to ask ‘why do you apply to these?’ Besides, these are not alternatives to each other… We do not underestimate EU membership but it is not a coincidence to talk about the SCO or ASEAN. We keep searching for markets all around the world.”
The Foreign Minister echoed Erdoğan’s words. Turkey is not alone in wanting to improve its relations with the SCO, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday in a bid to justify recent statements by Turkish leadership.
“As a matter of fact, the EU decided in 2012 to improve its relations with the SCO, and it also emphasized this matter in the duty guideline of its Special Representative for Central Asia,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement that was released in response to a journalist’s question.
As Turkey’s ties with the SCO are not an alternative to relations with the European Union and NATO, having ties with the SCO is not an obstacle to relations with the EU, the ministry spokesperson said.
The foreign ministry noted that Turkey’s application to the SCO to be a dialogue partner was accepted in a meeting of heads of states in 2012.
Elaborating on the positions of Germany and France, the prime minister said the messages are positive. “[French President François] Hollande’s first messages are positive.German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also positive in her last meetings. She will be in Turkey Feb. 25. We will raise the bar this time,” the prime minister said.
Erdoğan also criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement over the possible Shanghai membership. “He said since 1071 our goal has been [to head] toward the West but went to China with businessmen. Isn’t China a member of the SCO? If you are uneasy about the membership of the SCO then why did you go to the Great Wall of China?” Erdoğan asked. The Turkish government’s suggestion that it could consider joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a contradictory and bad idea, Kılıçdaroğlu has said.
“The proposal to become a member of the SCO is inconsistent and incorrect. We turned our direction to the West, not to the East,” the CHP leader said Feb. 4 in Portugal, where he is attending a meeting of the Socialist International.
“This is not something new, since 1071 our goal has been [to head] toward the West. We don’t mean geography in saying the West but modernity and civilization,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. The year 1071 marks when the Muslim Turkic army first entered Anatolia by defeating a Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert in eastern Anatolia.
Referring to the European Union, the main opposition leader said: “We see the EU as a modernization project. Every government, independent from its views and the era in which they govern, supports this project.” He also criticized the bloc over its reluctance to embrace Turkey during the negotiation process.
Prime Minister Erdoğan raised the issue Jan. 25 of possible membership in the SCO, considering it an alternative to the EU at a time when hopes of eventual membership in the bloc are diminishing amid hostility from a number of the union’s members toward Turkey’s accession.