Erdogan: Turkey may hold EU accession referendum

President says Turkey may hold a public vote on whether to continue to pursue European Union membership.

Turkish President Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in Istanbul
Erdogan said Turkey could hold a referendum on continuing talks on joining the EU [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey may hold a referendum on whether to carry on with negotiations about joining the European Union.

Turkey, which applied for EU membership in 1987, began accession talks in 2005. Yet, negotiations have moved very slowly due to disagreements over Cyprus, human rights and other issues. 

Turkey referendum moment favours Erdogan

Speaking on Saturday at a Turkish-Anglo conference in southern Antalya province, Erdogan said Ankara would likely review its ties with the bloc after a nationwide vote next month on sweeping constitutional changes.

“You [Britain] have made a decision with Brexit, there may be different things after April 16,” he said, referring to a June 2016 referendum in which British voters backed the country’s exit from the EU.

“We have a referendum on April 16. After it, we may hold a Brexit-like referendum on the [EU] negotiations. No matter what our nation decides, we will obey it,” Erdogan was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying.

READ MORE: Turkey’s constitutional reform – All you need to know

April’s referendum comes less than a year after a failed coup attempt against the government.

Voters will decide if they want a set of constitutional changes to significantly expand presidential powers.

The key amendments foresee the creation of vice presidents and the abolition of the office of the prime minister.

The government says the changes will prevent a return to fragile parliamentary coalitions of the past, and provide stability at a time of turmoil.

But critics say the proposed changes are actually aimed at weakening the parliament while creating a political system without checks and balances, which may eventually bring Turkey under a one-man rule.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies