EU-Turkey relations future hangs in Turkish referendum

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EU-Turkey relations future hangs in Turkish referendum

BRUSSELS: The future of badly strained EU-Turkey relations hangs in the balance Sunday when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asks voters to give him increased powers that opponents say will lead to authoritarian rule.

Ties with the European Union are a key issue for Turks long-promised membership of the bloc and Erdogan has rounded savagely on Brussels at the slightest criticism of his actions.

Europe was a "rotting continent ... no longer a centre of democracy, human rights and liberty but of repression, violence and Nazism," he said Thursday.

As for Turkey's EU membership bid, it would be back "on the table" after the referendum, he said Sunday.

Analysts say Erdogan's stinging rhetoric is meant to appeal to Turkish nationalists whose votes will be crucial in Sunday's referendum which looks too close to call.

The hopeful flip side is that he is at heart a pragmatist who will come to terms with the EU when the dust settles.

For the moment however, things are about as bad as they get.

- 'Burn bridges' -

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"EU-Turkey relations have never been smooth sailing but the recent exchanges mark a new low," said Jean Marcou, professor at Sciences Po university in Grenoble.

"You really cannot be sure that the relationship will even survive over the next few months," Marcou told AFP.

The Nazi jibes in particular seem a new departure as Ankara lashed out after the cancellation in several EU member states of pro-Erdogan referendum rallies. (APP)