ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s president said on Wednesday it was time for the EU to make up its mind whether it wants his country to join the bloc, a day after Germany’s Angela Merkel vowed to push her EU partners to consider suspending or ending its accession talks.
Merkel had sharpened her rhetoric in the build-up to this month’s German national vote and said on Sunday Turkey should not become a member. Ankara has accused her of indulging in populism.
“The EU needs to take a step now. Either they will keep their promises and open the road for full membership... or come out and say they do not want to continue with Turkey,” President Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.
Erdogan said Turkey had not abandoned its strategic goal of EU membership. But he has long signalled that his country has run out of patience with the EU over its languishing accession bid, launched in 2005, and the impasse has been brought into focus by a sharp deterioration in Turkey’s ties with Germany.
“I am telling them: Come out and say this bravely and do what is necessary. Bravely,” Erdogan said. “Instead of this courage, there is a two-faced approach to halt the Turkey-EU full membership talks. This is politically unethical.”
Germany’s frustrations are focussed on the detention of 11 German citizens, four of them with dual citizenship, in Turkey on political charges. Turkey accuses Germany of harbouring plotters behind the 2016 coup attempt.
Erdogan on Wednesday reiterated a call on Germany’s voters of Turkish descent not to back “enemies” of Turkey, among whom he has previously named Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the SDP and Greens.
He also repeated an accusation, which has infuriated Berlin, that German politics were reverting to the country’s Nazi past.
“They get offended by my Nazi comparisons, but you are doing that. I am not calling you Nazis, I am depicting the situation. This situation is Nazism, fascism and you are doing it,” he said.
Ahead of the April referendum on boosting his powers, Erdogan repeatedly lashed out at Germany and other European countries, accusing them of “Nazi-like” tactics for banning his ministers from speaking to rallies of Turkish voters abroad.
Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens