Czech President Milos Zeman is not enamored with the idea that Turkey may join the European Union. In remarks made at the end of his three-day visit to the north Bohemia region on Wednesday, Zeman reportedly lashed out at the EU for promising to pay Turkey $3.2 billion in aid in exchange for preventing Syrian refugees from traveling to the continent.
“The Roman Empire, before it collapsed, too, paid tribute money to barbarians [for them not to pilfer its territory],” he said, adding that although Turkey is a NATO member, it often acts as an ally of ISIS.
He then explained that Turkey can take care of the Syrian refugees because they, like the far majority of Turks, are Muslims:
The danger does not rest in Islam as such but in transferring these [Muslim] habits to Europe.
He also warned that Turkey has to be approached with “caution,” and can’t be treated like any other European nation.
Although Zeman will undoubtedly be criticized for these remarks by the EU’s establishment, the average European shares his concerns. For instance, one of the reasons that the Dutch far-right party PVV (led by Geert Wilders) has led in the polls for months now is their staunch opposition to EU membership for Turkey. Like Zeman, Wilders opposes allowing Syrian refugees to come to Europe, fearing terrorists may be hiding among them. What’s more, even if they’re not radical Muslims, Wilders often points out, their beliefs aren’t exactly enlightened and Western. As such, he says, they don’t belong in Europe.
Zeman clearly shares those views. The main difference between him and Wilders is that he’s the official leader of an EU member state. He may be less known in the United States, but he has real power and influence in Europe.
As such, it’s likely that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will soon respond to Zeman’s fighting words. Things could get very hot between Turkey and the Czech Republic.