Erdogan: Time to make a decision on EU bid

Erdogan, speaking to reporters in Ankara before flying to Prague for a visit, also said he was hopeful that members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which he earlier said Turkey might seek to join instead of the EU, would improve their democratic record over time.

«I ask this question concerning the EU: Doesn't a country need to make a decision after it has been kept waiting for 50 years?» Erdogan said, announcing that he will convey the message openly to EU leaders when he visits Brussels soon.

Erdogan sparked a debate when he said last month that Turkey could drop its membership bid and seek to join the Russian and Chinese-led SCO instead.

On February 3, Erdogan claimed that the EU and the SCO are not mutually exclusive alternatives, even though a country may well join one and quit the other if it wants to. He also said even though it was primarily established to focus on border security, the SCO has now become an organization promoting economic cooperation among its members.

And in response to criticism that Turkey's human rights record would deteriorate if it drops its EU bid, Erdogan said:«They say there is no democracy in the Shanghai countries. Democracy did not come to the EU overnight. And don't forget [what EU nations did in] Rwanda and Algeria. Why did they deport Roma people? Does Islamophobia fit into human rights? I believe the Shanghai countries will further intensify their democratization process.»

Turkey first applied for membership in the EU predecessor European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959 and it formally opened accession talks with the EU in 2005 following a reinvigorated reform drive after Erdoğan first came to power in 2002. The membership process has been stalled since then, however, amid the unresolved Cyprus dispute and opposition from some EU countries to Turkish accession.

Adapted from Worldbulletin