Mehmet Simsek, the deputy prime minister of Turkey, said in an interview that there’s still room for Turkey to deepen integration with the European Union despite current tensions between Ankara and Brussels.
Though accession talks over becoming a full member of the bloc have stalled, Turkey remains committed to achieving European standards on democracy and the rule of law, Mr. Simsek said.
Rather than cutting off talks completely, Mr. Simsek said there would be a better potential for integration if the European Union decides to allow countries to integrate at different speeds, including with the E.U.’s single market for goods and services.
“If the E.U. moves to a multiple-speed union, the idea of Turkey having room for further integration into single European markets is not far-fetched,” Mr. Simsek told Handelsblatt.
“Europe needs Turkey, and Turkey needs Europe,” he added. “The perspective of walking away from each other and forgetting about each other doesn’t seem very realistic to me.”
Relations between Turkey and the European Union have deteriorated as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a political crackdown in the wake of a failed military coup last summer.
Those tensions have been exacerbated in recent weeks as Turkish politicians have sought to campaign for a constitutional referendum, which would give Mr. Erdogan increased powers, among the Turkish diaspora in E.U. member states such as Germany and the Netherlands.
After planned rallies were canceled by local authorities, Mr. Erdogan compared the Netherlands and Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Nazis, sparking outrage in Europe.
Mr. Simsek defended the constitutional referendum, which E.U. leaders fear will move Turkey toward an autocratic regime. He said Turkey needs a strong president to bring stability to a system that has suffered from weak, short-term coalition governments.
“Turkey has suffered from multiple shocks, which made Turkey to respond in a way that is perceived as if Turkey is moving away from Europe in terms of its values,” Mr. Simsek said.
The deputy prime minister said he understands skepticism of foreign politicians campaigning abroad, but Europeans shouldn’t engage in double standards.
He alluded to a rally in Frankfurt Saturday, where an estimated 30,000 people demonstrated against the jailing of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is labeled a terrorist group by both Brussels and Ankara.
“The PKK can conduct demonstrations, but we can’t campaign,” he said. “This is really really hard to understand. And this is why you get the type of resentment or even anger among Turkish citizens.”
Read the full interview.