Turkey's Erdogan says EU will 'stall' Ukraine, Moldova accession

Credit: REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

ANKARA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was on Tuesday cited as saying the European Union would stall Ukraine and Moldova's accession to the EU, adding that Ankara had long earned the right to join the bloc but was being kept waiting for political reasons.

EU leaders agreed last week to open talks with Ukraine even as it continues to fight Russia's invasion, while also starting talks with Moldova. But the bloc could not agree on a 50 billion euro package of financial aid for Kyiv due to opposition from Hungary.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the move as a "victory" for Ukraine and the European continent.

Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Hungary, Erdogan said Turkey, which has been an EU candidate since 2005, had long earned the right to join the bloc but had been stalled over what he called political obstacles.

"Giving them candidate status does not mean they will become EU members. A process will start with them, they will be stalled too. None of these countries are a Turkey," Erdogan was cited as saying by his office.

"It is wrong for Turkey, which is more ready to join the EU than some member states, to be kept waiting at the door for years due to political obstacles," he added.

Turkey's bid to join the EU has been frozen for years due to EU concerns over Turkey's record on human rights and differences over regional policies, namely in the eastern Mediterranean and over the ethnically-split island of Cyprus. The bloc depends on NATO member Turkey's help, particularly on migration.

Although membership would likely be years away, the decision at a summit in Brussels takes Ukraine a step closer to its long-term strategic goal of anchoring itself in the West and freeing itself from Moscow's orbit.

Erdogan said Turkey's "strategic and economic" potential had long earned it the right to join the bloc - which Ankara says is a strategic goal - and added that progress might be seen in this process during the term presidency of Hungary, with which Turkey has good ties.

"The EU needs to turn back from this mistake now," he said, according to his office.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler)

((tuvan.gumrukcu@tr.com; @tuvangumrukcu; Reuters Messaging: tuvan.gumrukcu.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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