Post-coup Turkey’s membership bid stirs debate in EU
VIENNATurkey’s membership bid to the European Union after the failed coup attempt in the country has stirred debate inside the bloc, with Austria opposing Turkey’s bid, while the executive chief of the bloc has regarded such an act as a “serious foreign policy mistake.”
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said he opposed any steps that would bring Turkey closer to joining the European Union, reiterating his chancellor’s recent remarks.
Referring to the opening of further negotiating chapters - the process through which countries seeking to join can formally move towards membership - Kurz voiced his opposition in an interview with the daily Kurier published on Aug. 7.
“I have a say in the matter on the [European] Council of Foreign Ministers, where it will be decided if a new chapter will be opened with Turkey. And I am opposed to it,” he said, according to AFP.
Decisions taken by the council have to be agreed upon unanimously.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Aug. 4 had rejected Austria’s call for the EU to end membership talks with Turkey, warning that it would be a grave error.
“If one gives the impression to Turkey now that, no matter what, the EU is not ready to take in Turkey, then I would say that is a serious foreign policy mistake,” Juncker told German public broadcaster ARD on Aug. 4.
Kurz’s and Juncker’s comments follow criticism of Turkey from Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and Defense Minister Hans-Peter Doskozil in the wake of Turkey’s recent post-coup crackdown.
The country’s longstanding, and recently revived, bid to join the EU has also been undermined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s suggestion that he may reintroduce the death penalty after the July 15 failed coup attempt.
“We have to face reality: The membership negotiations are currently no more than fiction,” Kern told the Die Presse newspaper in comments published Aug. 4.
“We know that Turkey’s democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify its accession,” he said.
On Aug. 5, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called Austria the “capital of radical racism,” while Turkish EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik called Kern’s comments “extremely disturbing” on Aug. 4.
Austrian Defence Minister Hans-Peter Doskozil meanwhile compared Turkey to a “dictatorship,” adding that “such a state has no place in the EU.”
“The time has come to... clearly say that the EU’s negotiations with Turkey have to be suspended or ended,” Doskozil told the Austria Press Agency in an interview published on Aug. 4.
Kurz told Kurier that his view was shared by Kern, who would try to “convince other heads of state and government to stop accession negotiations with Turkey” during the September summit, which Kern himself had also brought up.
The EU opened a new negotiating chapter with Turkey in June as part of the European Union’s March migrant deal with Ankara.
Under the deal Ankara agreed to take back migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for political and financial incentives.
In addition to visa-free travel, the pact includes billions of euros in aid and accelerated EU membership talks.
Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said the country continued to support Turkey’s EU membership bid.
In an interview published on Aug. 6 in Sweden newspaper Expressen, Wallström said: “We continue to support Turkey’s EU membership.”
“We are on the side of maintaining dialogue with Turkey,” she added.
Turkey formally launched its membership bid in 2005 and since then the EU has opened 15 policy chapters out of the 35 required to join the bloc, although it has only successfully completed one.
Kern said he does not believe that a halt to accession talks would torpedo the refugee pact.
Meanwhile, the leader of Germany’s Liberal Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Lindner, and Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache separately said Aug. 6 that they saw parallels between Erdoğan’s behavior during the crackdown after the July 15 coup attempt and the aftermath of the Reichstag fire in 1933 portrayed by the Nazis as a Communist plot against the government and used by Adolf Hitler to justify massively curtailing civil liberties, Reuters reported.