Erdoğan hits back at Schulz, hints at Turkish referendum on EU membership bid

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blasted European Parliament President Martin Schulz over his suggestion that economic sanctions could be imposed on Turkey, hinting at the possibility of a Brexit-like referendum on the fate of Turkey’s EU membership candidacy. 

“You say ‘we’ll stop the accession talks.’ Well, you are already too late. Make your decision immediately. I as the president have said we will be patient until the end of the year. Then we will go to a public [vote]. Doesn’t sovereignty rest unconditionally with the nation? If the final decision is to be made by the nation, let’s ask the people,” Erdoğan said on Nov. 14 in the capital Ankara.

He also again vowed that he would approve the reinstating of the death penalty – a move that would likely bring membership talks with the EU to a complete halt – if parliament passes a law on it. He said this reintroduction could also be part of any referendum. 

“What are you [Shulz]? The president of a parliament is there … But since when have you had the authority to make decisions for Turkey?  Look at this impertinent man saying ‘we’ll impose sanctions.’ How can you, who have refused to take Turkey into the EU for 53 years, find the authority to make such a decision?” Erdoğan said.

In an interview with German tabloid Bild on Nov. 13, Shulz said the EU “should consider what economic sanctions we can take” in response to Ankara’s harsh post-coup attempt crackdown. 

“I can’t imagine that after the recent arrest of opposition MPs and journalists we will expand the Customs Union,” Schulz added, recalling that a reform of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU must be completed before the end of the year.

“If Turkey brings back the death penalty, its accession negotiations [with the EU] will end,” Schulz said, while stressing that he is in favor of a continuation of dialogue with Ankara.

“If we stop the talks, we may not be able to help the opposition or the prisoners,” he added.

Turkey is expected to hold a national vote on constitutional changes next spring, including on boosting the powers of Erdoğan’s office to create an executive presidential system.

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