Turkey warns of rising Euro xenophobia

  • 25/06/2016
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters)

Europe's politicians are failing to combat rising xenophobia and anti-immigrant views, Turkish officials say, after Britain's vote to exit the European Union deprived Turkey of what had been a major backer in its quest for EU membership.

The Brexit campaign and the rise of Europe's populist right have cast further doubt over Turkey's decade-long accession negotiations, a process which was in its early years an anchor for economic and social reforms in the country.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday (local time) blamed Islamophobia for holding up Turkey's accession process, accusing the bloc of double standards and warning that more countries could seek to leave.

"The practice currently against Turkey is Islamophobic, that is why they are delaying taking us in," he said in a televised speech.

"If the European Union deepens its inconsistencies and continues on its path, in a short time it will be inevitable for it to face new exits," he said.

His comments echoed those of one of the country's deputy Prime Ministers earlier in the day.

"The fragmentation of the EU has started. Britain was the first to abandon ship," Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli wrote on Twitter.

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said the British campaign had been marred by Islamophobia and anti-Turkish sentiment fuelled by mainstream politicians.

The "Out" campaign played on voters' fears about immigration by warning of dire consequences if Turkey, a largely Muslim nation of 79 million, joined the EU.

Ankara was particularly angered by the response of Prime Minister David Cameron, once a staunch advocate of Turkish accession to the EU, who joked that it would not happen until the year 3000.

Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but has made scant progress despite an initial burst of reforms.

Many EU states are not eager to see such a large, mostly Muslim country as a member, and are concerned that Ankara's record on basic freedoms has gone into reverse in recent years.