President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned that Turkey had reached the “end of the game” over its decades-long EU membership bid, saying it was time for Brussels once and for all to make clear if it wanted Ankara as a member.
In a hard-hitting speech marking the opening session of parliament, Erdogan also told Brussels it needed to allow Turks visa-free travel to the bloc by October, as per a previous agreement to decrease migrant flows.
Relations between the European Union and Turkey have strained in the wake of the July 15 failed coup, with EU officials among the most vocal critics of the relentless crackdown against the alleged plotters and supporters
“If the EU is going to make Turkey a full member, we are ready. But they should know that we have come to the end of the game,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara.
“There is no need to beat around the bush or engage in diplomatic acrobatics.
“It’s their (the EU’s) choice to continue the path with or without Turkey. They should not hold us responsible,” he added.
Erdogan said that October would be an important month in Turkey’s relations with the European Union and that “it is necessary” that visa-free travel for Turks to the Schengen Area comes into force this month.
Under a March deal, Turks were to gain visa-free travel in exchange for Ankara helping reduce the flow of migrants to Europe. However the visa plan has stumbled over Turkey’s anti-terror laws.
Turkey’s bid to join the EU dates back to the 1960s with formal talks starting in 2005. So far, only 16 chapters of the 35 chapter accession process have been opened for Turkey.
“The fact that our country has been kept waiting at the door for 53 years shows your (the EU’s) opinion towards us,” Erdogan added.
After the attempted coup, Erdogan mulled bringing back capital punishment, a move which would spell an end to the bid. But he did not mention the issue in the speech to parliament.