Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly discussed the possibility of breaking off relations with the European Union (EU). This comes in response to a European Parliament report that criticises Turkey’s democratic record and its growing closeness to Russia.
Speaking at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on Saturday before flying to the United States to attend the United Nations 78th General Assembly, Erdoğan stated, “If you want to clearly understand my assessment, the European Union is striving to break away from Turkey. In this period, where the European Union is making moves to separate from Turkey, we will also make our assessments and, if necessary, we can part ways with the European Union.”
The report, penned by Spanish MEP Nacho Sanchez Amor, places significant emphasis on the Council of Europe’s role in guiding Turkey towards democratic norms. The Council of Europe is a human rights organisation that has been instrumental in landmark legal cases in Turkey, including those involving political activists Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala. The report supports the Council’s call for the immediate release of these figures, among others.
One of the most eye-catching aspects of the European Parliament’s report is its critique of Turkey’s relationship with Russia, especially in the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict. The report also revealed that Turkey’s alignment with EU Foreign and Defence Policy has dropped to just 7% in 2021. Oliver Varhelyi, the European Commission’s point person for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, has urged Turkey to align its stance on Russia with that of the EU.
Trade between Russia and Turkey has seen a significant uptick, nearly doubling since the Ukraine conflict began. This has led the European Commission to reassess the impact of this trade surge on EU sanctions against Russia. The report also noted an increase in Russian nationals, including influential business figures, relocating to Turkish cities and coastal areas.