Turkish Minister Accuses Austrian Chancellor of “Right Wing Extremism”

Christian Kern is widely credited with successfully managing the transport of immense numbers of migrants transiting through Austria in 2015

After coming out Thursday against any possibility of Turkey joining the European Union Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern is accused of “extreme right-wing” rhetoric by a Turkish minister.

During an interview Thursday with Austrian press the Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that any serious talks of Turkey joining the European Union (EU) with full membership were simply “fiction”.

The reaction from Ankara has been to slam Chancellor Kern’s remarks saying that he sounded like he was speaking “right-wing extreme” rhetoric. Turkish European Affairs Minister Ömer Celik said that Mr. Kern’s remarks were “disturbing” and his opinion was “similar to that of the extreme-right,” reports Kleine Zeitung.

Chancellor Kern, who has been at the helm of the Austrian government since his predecessor stepped down in March following the victory of anti-mass migration Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer in the first round of the presidential elections, said that he wants the termination of Turkish membership negotiations to be on the agenda at the next European Council meeting in September.

Following the purges and arrests that came in the wake of the failed coup last month the Chancellor said: “We know that the democratic standards of Turkey are far too low to justify it as a candidate.” He argued that the continuation of the membership talks was more of a “diplomatic fiction” than a concrete plan for EU membership.

Mr. Celik said that while he thought the rhetoric was disturbing he claimed that there was room for Turkish democracy to improve and the “fundamental values of the EU” were the guide for improving democracy in the country.

The European Council meeting, which will be held on September 16th, will bring together the leaders of all the member states of the EU to discuss the issue of Turkish membership. Previously the agenda was set to discuss the Brexit vote and the handling of a United Kingdom exit from the political bloc, but since the failed coup in Turkey the discussions will focus around the impact of the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government toward perceived opposition forces.

Many have questioned the longevity of the EU migrant deal with Turkey following the coup and the consolidation of power by President Erdoğan. When asked about the issue Chancellor Kern stated that Turkey needed the West: “We are one of their biggest investors, Turkish tourism depends on us and what we must not forget is that the West financed the power deficit in Turkey.”

One of the stipulations for the deal is visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, but the EU is also demanding democratic reform. With the impending return of the death penalty in Turkey, the distance between values is increasing between the two and many foresee the migrant deal collapsing entirely.


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