EU: Turkey playing with fire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU

An EU official told Duygu Guvenc from Turkish daily Cumhuriyet that “Turkey is playing with fire,” after President Erdogan said on Saturday that they could ask the people in a referendum whether negotiations with the EU on the country’s accession should be terminated or not.

According to Guvenc’s report, instead of softening the rhetoric towards the EU after the referendum in Turkey on 16 April, Erdogan is adamant on sustaining the tension. An EU official told Guvenc that “We have much more tools to deploy. Turkey is playing with fire. Let’s be honest, the EU is much stronger than Turkey.”

Analysts have argued that the Turkish president is keeping tensions with the EU at boiling point in order to consolidate and mobilise his supporters ahead of a referendum on the expansion of executive powers for the president.

“Turkey may want to sustain the suspense, but we have mutual ties. Turkey is the main beneficiary of this mutual relationship, it is the one applying to become a member. The accession process has been a positive factor for Turkey’s economic development. The EU’s role in the AKP’s ascendancy was significant; it made good use of this,” Guvenc quoted the official as saying.

“We don’t expect Erdogan’s rhetoric to remain the same after the referendum. This is why we have to be careful. The tension could continue after the referendum too; this is also a possibility but we don’t want to be a party to this. However, after 16 April, the EU’s position will change too,” the official concluded.