Turkey’s full membership of the EU is the solution to the union’s problems, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed, calling on European leaders to “stop targeting Turkey.”
“We expect European leaders to stop targeting Turkey and to return to common sense. Escalating xenophobia is in nobody’s interest. Dreaming of coming to power through Islamophobia is futile,” Erdoğan said in an Oct. 23 speech commemorating Alija Izzetbegovic, the founding president of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“A Europe without Turkey can only lead to loneliness, despair and internal conflicts [for the EU]. Turkey does not need Europe, but Europe needs [Turkey]. They do not want to admit it, but the solution to Europe’s chronic problems is Turkey’s full membership of the EU,” he added.
Turkey’s EU membership process has been de facto suspended in recent years, as Brussels rejects opening further negotiation chapters with the Turkish government, citing the deterioration in democratic norms and restricted freedoms under the ongoing state of emergency since the July 2016 military coup attempt.
Ankara has criticized a number of EU member countries for allegedly not showing sufficient support in the wake of the coup attempt, as well as granting asylum to a number of pro-coup soldiers. It has also repeatedly blasted EU countries for allowing outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) demonstrations.
EU leaders met last week in Brussels but did not take any decision on Turkey’s status, apart from Germany’s initiative to block pre-accession financial assistance to the Turkish government.
“Those who think they can deal with Turkey through threats are ignorant of their own history. Those who think they can bring us to our knees with sanctions will soon understand that they are delusional,” Erdoğan said, vowing that Turkey will “avoid any provocations and cheap games.”
“As I always say, we won’t throw in the towel and we won’t give in. We will never make concessions on our national pride and strategic objectives,” he added.
Body searches in Austria
During his address, the president also blasted the controversial body search process on Turkish citizens by Austrian authorities with dogs at an airport in Vienna, calling the footage that emerged of the search a “disgrace.”
“Can you not perform the body search yourselves? If the citizen is a woman, you should have a woman police officer search her. But they don’t do that because this behavior is characteristic of them. We do not do the same because Muslims do not oppress others,” Erdoğan said.
Last week, footage was shared on social media of a customs official making a police dog sniff-search passengers and their belongings, while customers were waiting to board a Turkish Airlines flight at Vienna’s Schwechat Airport.
Airport authorities in Istanbul subsequently reprised this move by body searching a number of passengers bound for Austria with dogs, capturing the footage on smartphones.