BLED, Slovenia (Reuters) - Turkey’s government is under “huge pressure” from its people to abandon its decades-old drive to join the European Union because they see it applying double standards toward their country, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a forum in the Slovene mountain resort of Bled, Cavusoglu also warned that Europe could be heading toward instability and could succumb to extremism due to the strains of its twin economic and migration crises.
Cavusoglu also repeated his previous criticism of EU leaders for not showing sufficient solidarity with Turkey after a botched military coup in July in which President Tayyip Erdogan narrowly avoided capture and possible death.
“Turkish people see the double standard,” Cavusoglu said. “We are under huge pressure to stop the negotiating process.”
Ankara, which has been seeking EU membership for decades and began formal accession talks in 2005, has long accused the bloc of treating it differently to other candidate nations.
Some European politicians have spoken out against admitting Turkey, a large, mainly Muslim nation of nearly 80 million people that borders Iraq and Syria and has had a patchy record on democracy and human rights over the decades.
Relations have become especially strained after EU governments criticized the scale of Erdogan’s crackdown on those he accused of organizing or backing the failed coup on July 15.
But the EU needs Turkey’s support in reducing the large number of migrants and refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. In return for that help Brussels has promised to speed up Turkey’s EU talks and allow Turks visa-free travel to the bloc.
Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Turkey’s promise to accommodate war refugees on its territory would be rendered void if the EU did not uphold its pledge on visa-free travel.
Drawing a parallel between the rise of far-right parties in several EU member states today and the situation in the 1930s, he added: “In 10 years perhaps (Europe) may be facing a similar situation as before World War Two.”
On Monday, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the collapse of the EU’s deal with Turkey on managing migrant flows could unleash a new flood of people through the Balkans like that seen last autumn and further fuel support for far-right parties across the continent.
Reporting By Marja Novak-Vogric in Bled, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones