European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says Turkey is fast pulling out of Europe, blaming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the breakdown of accession talks between the Ankara government and the 28-member European Union.
“Turkey is withdrawing from Europe by giant steps,” Juncker told an annual conference of EU ambassadors in the Belgian capital city of Brussels on Tuesday.
He added that it is up to the 63-year-old leader of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to officially demand an end to his country’s efforts to join the EU.
Juncker said he thinks that Erdogan is hoping that the European Union would be the one to break off the talks in order to “blame” the politico-economic bloc for his failure.
But the bloc must avoid “falling into the trap” as the “responsibility is entirely on the Turkish side,” he said.
“The question is to know if we must put an end to the negotiations – which is a purely theoretical question as there are no negotiations,” the senior EU official pointed out.
On Friday, German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Turkey will never be accepted into the European Union as long as Erdogan is in power, blasting the Turkish head of state for not taking accession talks seriously.
Juncker’s remarks came as Turkish and German leaders have exchanged a series of fiery statements over the past few months. Germany has repeatedly criticized the Ankara government’s heavy-handed crackdown on those suspected of involvement in last year’s failed coup d’état, saying Ankara has acted beyond the rule of law.
Turkey, in return, has accused Germany of sheltering members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and allowing their sympathizers to stage anti-Turkey rallies across the Western European country.
Earlier this month, Erdogan accused Berlin of Nazi-like behavior and urged the three million or so Turkish expatriates living in Germany to vote against German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the country’s September federal election.
Turkey has been trying to become an EU member since the 1960s. Formal EU accession talks began in 2005, but the process has been plagued by problems.
The EU has opened 16 out of the 35 chapters required for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc, but only one of them has so far been concluded.