VALLETTA — 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, offering economic cooperation instead if both sides can restore friendly ties.
After years of deadlock 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.
The EU process is not formally frozen, but EU lawmakers called last week for a formal halt to talks, with some saying Turkey no longer met the democratic criteria to be considered a candidate, let alone a full member, for the EU.
Erdogan told Reuters in an interview last week that Turkey would not wait at Europe’s door forever and would walk away from accession talks if what he said was rising Islamophobia and hostility from some member states persist.
Launched in 2005 after decades of seeking the formal start of an EU membership bid, negotiations dovetailed with Erdogan’s first economic reforms in power as prime minister from 2003.