Turkey: Erdogan calls EU's bluff once more

'We've been waiting 50 years, say yes or we look elsewhere'

04 February, 17:10

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, FEBRUARY 4 - Islamic nationalist Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday threatened to stop negotiations for EU adhesion and to look for alternatives unless European leaders get a move on. ''Shouldn't a country that has been made to wait for 50 years make a decision?'' he thundered from Prague, where he arrived today, adding he will go to Brussels to put the question to EU leaders himself.

''If you want (to accept Turkey), do so. If you do not intend to do so, then you should say so. Or we can say it ourselves if you prefer,'' said the leader of what has become the 16th world economy. After a 10-year economic boom at China-style rhythms, Ankara is now stretching its muscles as a regional power in the name of the Ottoman imperial past Erdogan holds dear. Turkey has had its eyes set on EU adhesion since its first treaty with the European common market, back in 1963. But it has since been kept at a distance for a number of reasons, including Turkey's 1974 occupation of the northern half of Cyprus. Actual negotiations began in 2005, progressing at a snail's pace - with just one out of 35 negotiation chapters cleared in eight years - while Europe got busy letting everyone else in: the post-Communists, the Mediterranean countries, and those from the Balkans. While officially several countries support Turkey's adhesion, unofficially many are troubled at the idea of adding a 75-million strong Muslim country with a declared Islamic leader - one that is as big as Germany and an imperfect democracy to boot: Turkey is the world's biggest jail for journalists, according to a December 2012 Reporters Without Borders report.

Last month on TV, in what analysts said was an attempt to call the EU's bluff, Erdogan said he might adhere instead to the so-called Shaghai Pact, aka the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is made up of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

''I talked it over with (Russian Premier Vladimir) Putin,'' he said at the time, only to admit yesterday that the SCO, which is no way comparable to the EU, is not a viable alternative.

The mood has shifted in Turkey, where Erdogan's rise to power has increased the political influence of the Anatolian bourgeoisie over that of the European middle class in Istanbul.

While in 2008, 69% of Turks supported EU adhesion, that number has since dropped to 33.3%, according to a recent survey by Turkish foreign policy think tank EDAM. Another 19.7% want ''a different relationship'' with the EU, and 40% think Turkey no longer needs Europe. The feeling, analysts said, is that more and more, Turkey is turning away from the West and looking towards Eurasia. (ANSAmed).

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