ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has not yet “closed the book” on the EU after the European Parliament recommended freezing accession talks last week, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, but added that Ankara always has other options.
Erdogan said last week that Turkey did not need to join the European Union “at all costs” and has floated the idea of becoming part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations.
Without spelling out the alternatives, Erdogan said on Tuesday that talks with other potential partners were under way, telling a conference in Istanbul: “We can continue our path with one of them.”
In Berlin, the vice president of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, ruled out full EU membership for Turkey given Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown on journalists and dissidents, but said Turkey could be granted “a privileged partnership” with the bloc.
The European Parliament last week voted 479 to 37 for a non-binding motion to temporarily halt membership talks with Turkey because of its “disproportionate” reaction to the failed July 15 coup.
“We have to be honest with Turkey: it cannot be a full member of the EU. We have to say it openly,” Johannes Singhammer, a member of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, told the Straubinger Tagblatt/Landshuter Zeitung media group.
“Then we could begin negotiations with Turkey about a privileged partnership, or close cooperation, in which Ankara would not have voting rights in the European Parliament or the right to participate in the (European) Commission.”
“Such an approach would open up new perspectives,” he said.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Ece Toksabay in Istanbul, with additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Robin Pomeroy