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Ankara considers EU accession referendum

March 25, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he may hold a nationwide vote on whether to continue to pursue EU membership. Turkey's government began accession talks with the EU in 2005, but the process stalled years ago.

Türkei Antalya Erdogan Türkisch-Britisches Forum
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/Y. Bulbul

Erdogan proposes Turkish 'Brexit' vote

Speaking on Saturday at an Anglo-Turkish forum in the southern city of Antalya, Erdogan made a proposal that would see the country hold a referendum on whether to pursue European Union membership.

His remarks come amid escalating tensions between Ankara and European governments who have been critical at what they allege is a power grab by the Turkish president.

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The country is due to hold a public vote on April 16 to approve a new constitution that will greatly expand Erodogan's powers.

Second vote

The Turkish leader insisted if a second referendum were to take place shortly afterwards, he would respect the people's wishes.

"Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the (EU) accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there," Erdogan said.

The Ankara government has been angry at the slow progress of EU accession talks, which began in 2005, but which have been held up due to disagreements over Cyprus, human rights and other issues.

Erdogan lashed out those who claimed Turkey would still not be let into the EU if the referendum passed, saying that "Turkey is no one's whipping boy."

New provocation?

By mentioning Brexit, just days before Britain launches its formal divorce from the EU, the Turkish leader is likely to cause further raised eyebrows in Brussels and several other European capitals as the bloc attempts to rebuild its credibility.

Turkey has been at odds with several EU countries over attempts to hold political rallies in support of the constitutional referendum. Germany and the Netherlands canceled visits by Turkish leaders, much to Erdogan's ire.

Relations between Turkey and the EU have been further strained in the wake of the migrant crisis, which saw more than a million refugees travel through Turkey to Europe.

Despite Brussels agreeing to pay Turkey 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to take back many of them, Ankara has repeated threatened to call off the deal.

Reporter - German and Turkish - Cologne's Keupstrasse

mm/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)