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30 Aug, 2016 13:28

Turkish EU bid ‘unrealistic’ while Erdogan in power – European commissioner

Turkey is unlikely to join the European Union as long as its president remains in office, a top official from the bloc has said, adding that Ankara’s bid will be an issue for negotiations “for the time after Erdogan.”

In the current circumstances Turkey’s EU accession “is not realistic all through the next decade,” Guenther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, told Bild newspaper on Tuesday. 

“This will surely be an issue [for discussion] for the time after [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” he said. The official added, however, that Ankara is an important geostrategic and economic partner for the EU, and keeping good bilateral ties is critical.

German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has also previously dismissed the Turkish accession bid, which started in 2005. Speaking to reporters in early June, he said Europe was not in a position to admit "even a small state" to its 28-nation ranks, according to the broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

“The illusion … here comes someone to soon become a full member in the EU … that's complete nonsense … that will not eventuate," he was quoted as saying by DW.

Talks between Ankara and Brussels on Turkey’s EU membership have not been smooth, with Turkey linking the progress in discussions on granting visa-free travel for its nationals to its contribution to a controversial refugee deal.

In turn, the EU cites 72 conditions on issues such as the rule of law and human rights to be implemented by Turkey for lifting the visa requirements. A number of prominent European officials have accused Turkey of “blackmailing” Brussels or even behaving “like at a bazaar” by trying to raising the stakes.

European officials say that although Turkey has fulfilled most of the 72 conditions, it has failed to comply with the most important one, which is to relax its strict anti-terrorism laws, said to have been used to silence Erdogan’s critics.

Ankara maintains that it is Brussels which has not stuck to the initial arrangements and has failed to meet its own obligations.

In a July interview with the German broadcaster ARD, President Erdogan said that Turkey had so far received only €2 billion (US$2.23 billion) of the promised €3 billion as part of the refugee deal. "European leaders are dishonest," he said. "We have stood by our promise. But have the Europeans kept theirs?"

Last month, top Turkish officials also threatened to withdraw from the controversial refugee deal which Brussels hopes will help stem the huge flow of migrants into the EU.

"If visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back [refugees] and the agreement of March 18,” Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.

"It can be early or mid-October, but we are waiting for an exact date," he said.

Turkey joining the EU has “never been a realistic possibility,” Dan Glazebrook, a political writer and journalist, told RT, adding that “it is also not a realistic possibility” now. He stressed that the idea of Turkey joining the Union was always “only a fantasy dangled in front of the Turkish people to lure them into cooperating with [the West] in various wars of aggression and destabilization.”

Glazebrook also said that, historically, the European identity was built in large part around the idea of “being not Muslim” making it impossible for the mostly-Muslim Turkey to join the European Union.

“The sooner Turkey realizes it and forges its own path, the better,” he told RT.