November 2016 – TURKEY – Turkey could join the Shanghai Pact with Russia and China instead of the European Union, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. Mr. Erdogan said Turkey should “feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated” about joining it, as his country’s decades-long hopes of joining the EU reached their lowest point in the aftermath of the failed 15 July coup. “Some may criticize me but I express my opinion. For example, I have said ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five?’” he told Turkish journalists on a plane from Uzbekistan, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) — also known as the Shanghai Pact — is a loose security and economic bloc led by Russia and China, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Mr. Erdogan said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has floated plans for Turkey to join the SCO several times, a move which could scupper the country’s long-standing EU membership bid.
The SCO option became clouded when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian war plane last November. In August, Turkish media reported Mr. Nazarbayev mediated a deal between Ankara and Moscow to smooth over the dispute. Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005, even though Ankara’s aspirations to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s. Brussels has harshly criticized the Turkish government’s crackdown on alleged coup plotters, urging Ankara to comply with rights and freedoms criteria.
Mr. Erdogan is looking to expand his powers by changing Turkey’s constitution. This week, Mr. Erdogan warned the EU to decide by the year’s end on its membership bid, threatening call a referendum on whether to continue membership discussions. Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up membership talks in March as part of an accord on curbing the flow of refugees into Greece. The deal was made in return for several incentives for Ankara including EU cash assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as visa-free travel to Schengen area for Turks. –Independent