Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern on Wednesday called on the European Union to end membership talks with Turkey in the wake of a massive government crackdown following a failed coup.
Turkey’s longstanding, and recently revived, bid to join the EU has already been hit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s suggestion that he may reintroduce the death penalty in the wake of the attempted putsch on 15 July – a move which would instantly disqualify it from joining the bloc.
“We have to face reality: the membership negotiations are currently no more than fiction,” Kern told Austrian media.
“We know that Turkey’s democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify its accession.”
The head of a top European rights watchdog Wednesday backed a “cleaning up” of Turkish institutions after a failed coup blamed on supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Kern told public broadcaster ORF that he wants to “start a discussion” at the European Council summit on 16 September, and “ask for a different concept”.
The chancellor said Turkey’s economy also remained far below the EU average and well short of membership requirements.
Making Ankara a part of the EU’s single market would spark “massive economic upheaval” in a bloc already struggling to cope with its enlargement toward eastern and central Europe, he warned.
“We are all well advised to now say we’re pressing the reset button,” Kern said.
Instead, the EU should seek “new alternatives” to help bring Turkey’s economy closer to European standards.
“(The country) remains an important partner in security and integration matters,” Kern said, highlighting Turkey’s key role in the ongoing migrant crisis.
In March, Turkey and the EU signed a controversial deal in which Ankara agreed to take back Syrian migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for political and financial incentives.
Greece’s migration minister has warned that a back-up strategy – a Plan B – is needed in case the EU-Turkey refugee deal collapses amid escalating tensions between the bloc and Ankara.
In addition to visa-free travel, the pact includes billions of euros in aid and accelerated EU membership talks.
Kern said he did not believe that a halt to accession talks would torpedo the refugee pact.
“Economically, we have the upper hand. Turkey depends on us,” he added.
Earlier this week, Kern said he would not bow to “intimidation” from Turkey after receiving online death threats from “radical” elements of Austria’s sizeable Turkish community.