ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the EU of not wanting to accept Turkey as a member as it is a “Muslim-majority country” and suggested holding a referendum over whether to continue its long-stalled accession process to join the European Union.
Erdogan lashing out at the bloc’s treatment of Ankara, said Turkey could hold a referendum along the lines of that in Britain, where voters are deciding Thursday (today) whether to stay in the European Union or leave.
“We can stand up and ask the people just like the British are doing,” Erdogan said in a speech late Wednesday after breaking the Ramazan fast, quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“We would ask ‘Do we continue the negotiations with the European Union or do we end it?’ If the people say ‘continue’, then we would carry on,” Erdogan said.
He accused the EU of not wanting to accept Turkey as a member as it is a “Muslim-majority country”.
Erdogan said Turkey had been promised membership in 1963 but 53 years later nothing had happened. “Why are you stalling?” he asked.
It was in 1963 that Ankara and Brussels for the first time inked an association agreement stating that Turkey would aim to be a member of the bloc.
After applying in 1987, Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but its membership bid has been held up by an array of problems.
With the question of Turkey’s possible membership being raised in the British referendum, Ankara has been angered by comments from London suggesting that it has no realistic chance of joining the bloc in the medium term.
During the campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron said Turkish membership was not “remotely on the cards” and may not happen until the year 3,000.