Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday the European Union will lose his nation if it is not accepted as a member by 2023. At that time, Turkey will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a republic, created following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.
Erdogan's comment was the first indication of how much longer the country is willing to wait for an answer on its EU membership before finally tossing in the towel.
During a panel discussion Tuesday night in Berlin, Erdogan responded to a question on the subject by saying, “They probably won't string us along that long. But if they do... then the European Union will lose out, and at the very least they will lose Turkey.”
An overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 74 million people that has until recently been mostly secular, Turkey has pursued membership in the EU since 2005.
Its entry has consistently been blocked primarily by France and also Germany, where some 3 million Turkish nationals currently reside. Another 3 million Turkish citizens live in other areas of the EU as well.
The European Commission, which functions as the executive arm of the EU, has said that Turkey does not yet meet the required standards on human rights and freedom of speech. In addition, Turkey has completed only one of 35 policy “chapters” each candidate must finish, according to the EU.
Earlier this month, a trial began in Istanbul against internationally-renowned Turkish jazz and classical pianist Fazil Say on charges of "publicly insulting religious values adopted by a part of the nation." If convicted in the suit over Twitter messages that had references to Islam, brought by individual citizens, the Turkish musician could face up to 18 months in prison.