Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday rebuffed the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) for their calls on the government to push the European Union membership process and end an ongoing state of emergency (OHAL), Cumhuriyet reported.
Speaking at TÜSİAD’s High Advisory Council (YİK) meeting, Erdoğan said: “I can hardly understand your concerns about OHAL. What did OHAL prevent businessmen from doing? There is an operation to destroy our country and wipe out our nation. We have 249 martyrs, and we still say ‘Let’s end OHAL’.”
“We cannot remove the state of emergency until peace is restored,” he underlined.
Erdoğan’s statement came in response to comments by TÜSİAD representatives.
Giving the opening speech at the meeting, YİK head Tuncay Özilhan called on the government to end the state of emergency, saying: “I want to stress the importance of removing the state of emergency, the freedom and impartiality of the judiciary, reforms in election laws, in governance, freedom of expression and freedom of the press in order for Turkey to improve in a spirit of social freedom and plurality.”
Taking the stage following Özilhan, TÜSİAD Chairman Erol Bilecik said: “We understand the importance of secularism when we look at the Mideast. For 10 months, we have been living in a state of emergency that we hope will not be extended.”
Bilecik also stressed the importance of the EU process for Turkey. Calling the EU a “priority national interest,” the TÜSİAD head demanded modernization of the customs union with the EU.
“We will continue on our way by strengthening the customs union,” Erdoğan responded but rejected calls for EU membership.
“Did the EU open the door and Turkey did not get in? There is an EU which has driven Turkey from pillar to post at its door for 54 years. … We have honor. We will not let them play with it. … If EU representatives treat us fairly and with honor, we can continue talks. If not we can go our own way,” said Erdoğan.
The president also said Turkey was preparing for a new period of progress in both democratic and economic terms.