Ankara, August 5, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called Austria the “capital of radical racism” on Aug. 5 after Chancellor Christian Kern suggested ending European Union accession talks with Ankara.
Çavuşoğlu told TGRT Haber that Kern’s comments, spurred in part by a crackdown on suspected perpetrators of a failed coup last month, were “ugly” and that he rejected them all.
“The Austrian chancellor should first take a look at his own country. One of the trends that is an enemy of human rights and values is racism and today Austria is the capital of radical racism,” he said.
Kern said on Aug. 3 he would start a discussion among European heads of government to quit talks with Turkey citing democratic and economic deficits.
Talks have made only slow progress since they began in 2005, with only one of 35 “chapters” concluded.
“We have to face reality: the membership negotiations are currently no more than fiction,” Kern told the Die Presse newspaper.
Çavuşoğlu’s comments drew immediate reaction from Vienna. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on Ankara to moderate its words and actions.
“I sharply reject the criticism of Austria by Turkey’s foreign minister. Ankara is called upon to moderate its choice of words and its course of action [at home] as well as to do its homework,” a spokesman quoted Kurz as saying.
Kern’s Social Democrats have come under pressure from both their Conservative coalition partners and the far right Freedom Party, which has in a recent opinion poll attracted 35 percent of votes on an anti-immigrant platform, critical of Islam.
European leaders have voiced concern over the Turkish government’s crackdown on suspected dissidents after a failed coup attempt on July 15, identifying his idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey as a red line barring EU accession.
Tensions between the two countries had been on the rise since last month. Austria had summoned Turkey’s ambassador on July 21 to explain Ankara’s links to demonstrations in the country in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The mayor of the small city of Wiener Neustadt in Austria said July 22 that he wanted the sizeable Turkish community there to remove Turkish flags from balconies, but there is no ban in place there or anywhere else in the country.
In a speech in the following days, Erdoğan had criticized the Austrian mayor’s remarks.