Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister, Ömer Çelik, on Tuesday (29 November) dismissed a European Parliament vote to freeze accession talks with Ankara as the “most unjust resolution in history” and urged solidarity instead.
During a visit to Brussels, Çelik sought to ease tensions exacerbated by the non-binding vote last week to halt Turkey’s membership process over its “disproportionate” crackdown since July’s failed coup.
“Turkey is a big country, a magnificent country and the people of this country live in pluralism. They stand up for democracy,” Çelik told both European and Turkish journalists.
“The European Parliament’s taking this resolution against such a society is the most unjust resolution in history,” he said trying to clear up what he sees as EU misperceptions. “Today, now is the time for solidarity.”
Ahead of talks with the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and other officials, Çelik, renewed charges that the EU failed to show sympathy with a democratic country rocked by the deadly July 15 coup attempt.
“Please try to empathise with us,” he pleaded.
But the parliamentary vote underscored growing European concerns over rights and democracy in Turkey, especially over the coup crackdown that has seen almost 37,000 arrested, formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005, even though Ankara’s aspirations to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s.
“If there were objective, fair negotiations… then there is no reason why Turkey would not be a full member state today,” Çelik said.
The parliament vote escalated tensions with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who threatened to retaliate by rupturing a March deal that has sharply reduced the flow of migrants to Europe.
Erdoğan on Tuesday said his country has not yet given up on its ambition to join the EU but has “many other alternatives” if the stalled process goes nowhere.
“We have not yet closed the European Union book right now,” Erdoğan told an international conference in Istanbul. “But nobody should forget that Turkey always has many other alternatives.”
Last week the European Parliament backed a freeze in Turkey’s membership talks, angering Erdoğan who threatened to retaliate by rupturing a migrant deal curbing the flow of refugees to Europe.
The deal has substantially helped reduce the wave of migrants since it was signed in March. Erdoğan said last week that the non-binding vote at the European Parliament “upset” Turkey, adding it did not currently have “positive” feelings on the accession talks.
If the EU path is blocked, Erdoğan said, “we’ll continue our road by evaluating one of those alternatives”, without naming them.
“I don’t find it right to say it here but we are of course continuing our talks with those alternatives.”
Earlier this month, Erdoğan again floated the idea of joining Russia and China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The SCO is a loose security and economic bloc. Other members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
But Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised interview last week however that the SCO was not an alternative to Ankara’s EU accession talks.