The European Commission president says EU accession talks with Turkey should continue. Jean-Claude Juncker rejected an Austrian push to halt membership negotiations after rights violations following a failed coup.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said EU membership talks with Turkey should continue. However, Juncker also told the German public broadcaster ARD that, at the moment, Turkey would not become a member of the European Union - comments that could further strain relations between the nation and the EU.
"Turkey, in the state it is currently in, cannot become a member of the European Union," Juncker told ARD in Brussels on Thursday. He said, however, that "I don't think it would be helpful if we would unilaterally tell Turkey that the negotiations are over." As for a blocwide consensus on breaking off talks, Juncker said, "I don't see this willingness among all member states at this point in time."
Officials in Ankara have said they could ditch a refugee swap with the bloc that sends rejected asylum-seekers to Turkey and requires the EU to take in displaced Syrians on a one-to-one basis. As part of that deal, the bloc had pledged to grant visa-free travel to Turks and accelerate membership talks - a process that began in 1999.
'A diplomatic fiction'
Turkey's post-coup crackdown has led to several rights violations. Authorities have detained 25,000 people, tens of thousands of civil servants - including soccer referees - have lost their jobs, and the government has arrested several journalists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he might reintroduce capital punishment after the failed July 15 putsch.
Citing such events, on Wednesday Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for further discussion on membership talks, saying he would raise the issue at an EU summit on September 16. "We know that Turkey's democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify accession," Kern had told the Austrian daily "Die Presse." In a separate interview with the public broadcaster ORF, he called negotiations with Turkey "a diplomatic fiction."
Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik said the criticism from Austrian officials had a nationalist bent. "To be honest, I find it extremely disturbing that this kind of statement bears such similarity to the statements of right-wing extremists in Europe," Celik said Thursday, according to the Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
It continued. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took to Twitter on Thursday to refute Celik's charge: "Turkey has to do its homework and moderate its own language and actions."
Also on Thursday, an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, stating that he had ordered the coup, Anadolu reported. Turkish officials say they have demanded Gulen's extradition from the United States, where he lives, but US authorities say they have received no such request.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)