Austria’s increasingly hard-line Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has made it known that unless Turkey reforms on issues of freedom and human rights, Austria will block any European Union membership negotiations.
The Foreign Minister announced his intentions to block Turkish membership talks at a conference of European Union Foreign Ministers Monday. Mr. Kurz announced that the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hadn’t reformed since the failed coup attempt in the summer and that until they did he said there must be a freeze on any talks between Ankara and Brussels, reports Die Presse.
According to Kurz the EU “must at least freeze the accession negotiations,” claiming that, “it is wrong to continue accession negotiations as if nothing negative has happened in Turkey in the last few months.”
Kurz stands defiant to the wishes of many other European Union member states who want to progress the talks that could eventually lead to European Union membership for Turkey. Slovakia, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency is among those who disagree with the Austrian Foreign Minister.
Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said the negotiations “would not be easy” but stressed the importance of Turkey to the political bloc as an ally.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also supports the continuation of the talks, saying that a blocking of negotiations was wrong. German foreign Minister and likely next German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier slammed Kurz’s words, saying “I do not believe it is responsible foreign policy when you simply stand up and say: We are now ending the accession talks, without saying clearly what the consequences are.”
The talks come before an important conference on Thursday where EU leaders will look at the EU-Turkey migrant deal which is, in the eyes of many, on its last legs.
The deal has been plagued by threats from the Turkish government to release a wave of migrants if Ankara does not get visa-free access to the EU for Turkish citizens. The EU has maintained that Turkey must reform its terrorism laws which in the wake of the failed coup have led to the arrests of teachers, academics, soldiers, members of the press and political opponents.
President Erdogan has also said that the government will start shipping over migrants from Turkey if the membership negotiations are shut down and he has promised thousands of migrants will land on the shores of Greece daily if the EU-Turkey migrant agreement fails.
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at firstname.lastname@example.org