Erdoğan again suggests joining Shanghai Pact as alternative to EU

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) listens to Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) during the G20 leaders' family photo in Hangzhou on September 4, 2016. World leaders are gathering in Hangzhou for the 11th G20 Leaders Summit from September 4 to 5. / AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKER

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has again suggested joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic and military organization led by China and Russia, instead of insisting on becoming a member of the European Union.

Speaking to a group of journalists on his return from Central Asia, Erdoğan said that Turkey should feel “comfortable” and not “insist on the European Union,” adding that he was merely expressing his own opinion.

“For instance I say why would Turkey not be a part of the Shanghai Five?” Erdoğan asked, stating that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin and other members of the SCO of his idea.

The SCO is a military, political and economic organization founded in 1996 as the Shanghai Five by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. After the inclusion of Uzbekistan, the pact changed its name to the Shanghai Pact, or SCO.

Stepping up his criticism of the EU, Erdoğan argued that the EU has never viewed Turkey positively as they sometimes insult him and argue that there is no freedom of expression in Turkey.

This is not the first time Erdoğan has considered the Shanghai Five an alternative to the EU. In 2013 Erdoğan had asked Putin to admit Turkey to the Eurasian bloc after similar criticism of the EU.

Reiterating his criticism of the EU as far as a visa liberalization deal is concerned, Erdoğan renewed his idea of waiting until the end of 2016 to cancel a readmission agreement with the EU, which requires Turkey to accept illegal immigrants back in return for Turkish citizens’ visa-free accession to the Schengen zone and at least 3 billion euros in financial aid for refugees.

Erdoğan often slams the EU for not giving the promised financial aid to Turkey for refugees. On his way back from Uzbekistan, he repeated his criticism, saying that although the EU promised Turkey a total of 6 billion euros, this promise has not been kept. Recently, in a veiled threat, Erdoğan said the EU would not know what to do if 3 million refugees were to march towards Europe.

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