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Selim Yenel: 'If we don't get EU membership, so be it'

Vera Tellmann
April 21, 2016

On DW's "Conflict Zone," Turkey's EU Ambassador Selim Yenel told host Tim Sebastian that his government was "very patient" regarding EU membership.

Belgien Izzet Selim Yenel
Image: European Union/Georges Boulougouris

Yenel complained about the European Union's lack of support to bring about political and social reforms in Turkey. "The EU isn't helping us at all," the politician said.

"If it's an interest of the EU to have Turkey as a member, it will happen. If not, it won't happen, even if you have the best human rights record," said Yenel, adding: "In the end, if we don't have membership, so be it. But if we can reach the same standards, the same quality of life, in every respect, that is good enough for us."

On Turkey's handling of the refugee crisis, the ambassador said: "We have saved so many people. We are the country that has the highest number of refugees – 2.7 million, if not more. And they are all safe in Turkey. All those people who have left Turkey for the Greek islands are going there for economic reasons."

Yenel described his government's efforts to protect Turkey against terror threats: "What we try to do recently is to protect ourselves against ISIS. Some people are trying to infiltrate Turkey, we have had suicide bombers, we had incidents in Istanbul and Ankara. We are trying to protect our borders. But we are not shooting at anybody."

The ambassador did not dwell on the subject of freedom of speech. On President Erdogan's criminal complaint against German satirist Jan Böhmermann, Yenel said: "To be a comedian, you need intelligence. This kind of comedian is bereft of any intellect because what I see is bordering on racism. It's disgusting and even the chancellor herself has agreed to turn it to the German courts."

When host Tim Sebastian asked Yenel about the 2.000 cases against people – cartoonists, academics, journalists and civilians – who allegedly insulted President Erdogan, the politician evaded the issue by playing it down: "They go to the prosecution and if they are found legitimate they are prosecuted and if not – there are a lot of cases that have been thrown out."

British journalist Tim Sebastian, who has been the host of "Conflict Zone" since September 2015, and Michel Friedman take turns in presenting DW's top political talk show with German and international decision-makers. "Conflict Zone" airs every Wednesday at 17.30 UTC and is available online on demand.

Michel Friedman joined "Conflict Zone" in April. Friedman is a lawyer, university lecturer and renowned journalist with more than 25 years of experience.

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