Talks between top European Union officials and Turkey’s foreign minister on July 25 failed to ease tensions between Ankara and the 28-member bloc. Brussels remains concerned over a wave of detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and others following last year’s coup attempt.
While Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu defended the government crackdown as part of the fight against terrorism, European enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn expressed “very strong concern” about the detentions.
As reported by The Associated Press (AP), Austria’s chancellor also renewed his argument that Turkey shouldn’t become a European Union member. He even said an expansion of the Turkey-EU customs union should come with tough conditions.
Austria has been among Ankara’s most outspoken critics in the 28-nation EU and argued for freezing membership talks with Turkey.
Chancellor Christian Kern was quoted on July 25 as telling Germany’s daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “I think EU membership is excluded, and an expansion of the customs union is only conceivable if Turkey fulfils tough rule-of-law conditions.”
Kern said it’s up to Turkey to act before there can be “an element of a new relationship between the EU and Turkey”.
He added that “Turkey is massively dependent on Europe and the West.”
Earlier in the day, however, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ramped up his anti-Western rhetoric, saying the era of a submissive Turkey bowing to every Western demand is over. He said: “the West wants Turkey to bring about their demands no questions asked… I am sorry to say that Turkey no longer exists.”
According to AP, Turkey has been mired in an escalating diplomatic row with Germany following the arrests last week of a group of human rights activists, including a German national, over terror-related charges. Earlier, a German-Turkish journalist was arrested for allegedly spying and aiding Kurdish rebels.