Turkey criticises EU over 'anti-Erdogan sentiment'

  • 11/08/2016
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters)
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters)

Turkey claims the European Union is fuelled by anti-Turkish sentiment and hostility towards President Tayyip Erdogan, and is making grave mistakes in its response to a failed coup which is costing it the trust of ordinary Turks.

Erdogan and many Turks have been incensed by what they see as the undue concern of Europe over a crackdown after the abortive July 15 coup attempt but indifference to the bloody events themselves in which more than 240 people died.

"Unfortunately the EU is making some serious mistakes. They have failed the test following the coup attempt ... Their issue is anti-Turkey and anti-Erdogan sentiment," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu Agency.

"We have worked very hard towards EU [membership] these past 15 years. We never begged, but we worked very hard ... Now two out of three people are saying we should stop talks with the EU."

More than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained, suspended or placed under investigation since the coup attempt, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and warplanes to try to take power.

Dismissals continued on Wednesday. State-run Anadolu Agency said a further 648 judges and prosecutors were suspended under the investigation, bringing to 3489 the number of those removed from duty.

Turkey's Scientific and Technological Research Council (Tubitak) has removed 560 staff, said private broadcaster NTV.

Thousands of people, waving Turkish flags, gathered outside the presidential palace in Ankara on Wednesday night (local time) to hear Erdogan call anew for the United States to extradite US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt.

Gulen denies any involvement.

"Sooner or later the United States of America will make a choice. Either Turkey or FETO," he told the crowd in a speech, using an abbreviation standing for the "Gulenist Terror Group" which is how Ankara refers to Gulen's movement.

The speech was billed as the culmination of nightly rallies in cities across Turkey to show solidarity since the attempted coup.

Some of Turkey's European allies are concerned that Erdogan, already seen as an authoritarian leader, is using the coup attempt as an excuse to further tighten his grip. Turkish officials dismiss such claims, saying the purges are justified by the gravity of the threat posed by the failed uprising.

Western allies are also watching Erdogan's rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerned that both leaders may use their detente and chilled relations with the West to pressure Washington and the European Union.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said Europe needs to think again about Turkey's possible EU membership.

"I am interested in a fundamental discussion," he said on Wednesday in an interview with broadcaster ORF.

"That fundamental discussion is: Can we accept someone within the EU who does not adhere to democratic standards, who has difficulty with human rights, and who ignores humanitarian necessities and necessities regarding the rule of law?"

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.

In a return to combative form, Erdogan on Wednesday took aim at Turkey's banks, saying they should not be charging high interest in the aftermath of the coup plot and promising to take action against lenders who "go the wrong way".

Erdogan has repeatedly equated high interest rates with treason and called for lower borrowing costs to fuel growth, raising concern about the independence of the central bank.


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