Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan has turned its back on joining the European Union, at least for now, the bloc’s top official dealing with Ankara said.
After years of stalemate on Turkey’s bid to join the world’s biggest trading bloc, EU governments say the process is dead, citing Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents, his ‘Nazi’ jibes at Germany and a referendum giving him sweeping new powers that a rights group says lack checks and balances.
“Everybody’s clear that, currently at least, Turkey is moving away from a European perspective,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who oversees EU membership bids, told Reuters.
“The focus of our relationship has to be something else,” Hahn said in an interview after EU foreign ministers met in Malta and where France and Germany led efforts to consider a new deal with Ankara based on trade and security ties.
“We have to see what could be done in the future, to see if we can restart some kind of cooperation,”
Hahn said that he had not had meetings on the economy with NATO-member Turkey since January 2016, normally a fixture of accession talks.
Economic success remains part of Erdogan’s popularity with the pious Turkish poor, who saw living standards rise, although Hahn noted the worsening state of Turkey’s economy now.
The European Union is Turkey’s biggest foreign investor and biggest trading partner, while Turkey shares a border with Iraq, Syria and with Russia in the Black Sea.
Hahn said he would present a report by early next year to EU governments to clarify Turkey’s status.