On eve of Merkel visit, Erdogan again dismisses "privileged partnership" proposal

Ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Turkey early next week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again ruled out "privileged partnership" proposals by Germany and France to Turkey in lieu of full European Union membership. "There is no mention of 'privileged partnership' in EU-related agreements," Erdogan told an interview with German weekly Die Zeit. Asked how he would respond if Merkel repeated the proposal, Erdogan said, "I won't give her the chance, because she is well aware of our view of that." Erdogan added, "Turkey is currently continuing negotiations with the EU towards full membership. There is no eventual option for Turkey besides full EU membership. You can't change penalty rules in the middle of a match. We're playing the game in line with EU rules." In this context, it is hard to understand why some are trying to make Turkey's EU accession a subject of debate, Erdogan added. Commenting on debates in Europe over Muslim headscarves and burkas, Erdogan said restricting the religious freedom of people with different beliefs is wrong. "Nobody anywhere should have the right to interfere with another person's dress style," he added. "We must give people the freedom of shaping their own lives." Asked about fears of Europe's "Islamization," Erdogan said that such fears stem from rising international Islamophobia, particularly in Europe. Just like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is a crime against humanity, Erdogan said.