Speaking on Thursday at a council of TUSIAD, Turkey’s largest business association, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was “at the center of this process”.
“Turkey is at the center of this process with its historical, geographical and cultural position,” he said. “If you’re not at the [negotiation] table, you might find yourself on the menu.”
Erdoğan specifically mentioned China’s Belt and Road project as an example.
The Belt and Road Initiative — proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 — aims to build a trade and infrastructure network along ancient trade routes such as the Silk Road that would connect Asia with Europe or Africa, according to China’s official Xinhua news wire.
“There are trillions of dollars here […] Turkey is located at the very east, at a significant location, that we call the central corridor [of the Belt and Road project],” he said.
Regarding Turkey’s EU accession process, Erdoğan said the countries that applied after Turkey and were accepted into the European Union (EU) were not better, recalling 54 years had passed since Ankara’s application.
“Here come Bulgaria, Greece. Today, Greece has €400 billion in debt,” Erdoğan said, adding that the European countries were still trying to keep Greece alive.
Erdoğan added that Turkey would concentrate on customs unions “from now on”.
“If the European market is important for Turkey, Turkey is also important for Europe, maybe more,” Erdoğan said. “Keeping this in mind, we will continue our negotiations within the customs union.”
The EU-Turkey customs union came into force in 1995.
“We are working to diversify and strengthen the economic cooperation platforms with other countries,” he said.
“From now on, we need world-renowned, recognized and value-producing brands,” Erdoğan said. “We always say that we support our businessmen in this regard.”
Erdoğan said Turkey would not insist on membership despite “all kinds of attacks” towards Turkish officials in different countries.
“We have made all kinds of negotiations. If the officials of the European Union continue their fair and positive approach towards us after these negotiations, we will continue this way,” Erdoğan said. “If not,” Turkey will search for different solutions, he warned.
“I will never let anybody tarnish this country’s honor,” he added.