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    Turkish Supporters are silhouetted against a screan showing President Tayyip Erdogan during a pro-government demonstration in Ankara, Turkey, July 17, 2016.

    Austria Calls for End to Turkey EU Accession Talks in Split With Brussels

    © REUTERS / Baz Ratner
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    Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said Turkey's "democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify its accession" into the EU, in a move that contradicts the view of the European Commission, in a further sign of divisions within the Union.

    "We have to face reality: the membership negotiations are currently no more than fiction. We know that Turkey's democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify its accession," Kern told reporters.

    "We are all well advised to now say we're pressing the reset button. [Turkey] remains an important partner in security and integration matters," he added.

    However, the European Commission spokesperson for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Tove Ernst, told Euractiv.com that the EU remained committed to the EU-Turkey refugee deal but added that the challenge was greater than that agreement alone.

    "We have a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration addressing all aspects of the migration challenge. We have spent the past 15 months putting in place the tools needed to future-proof our systems, both internally and externally," Ernst said.

    Coup Attempt Crackdown

    The EU-Turkey migrant deal originally agreed in March 2016, was brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to stop the flow of migrants reaching Europe via Turkey and the Aegean Sea.

    Under the deal, The EU was due to pay Turkey — initially — US$3.95 billion to bolster its refugee camps and accept "irregular" migrants denied asylum in Greece in return — on a one-for-one basis —  for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated in the EU.

    Volunteers help migrants and refugees on a dingy as they arrive at the shore of the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on Sunday, March 20, 2016
    © REUTERS / Petros Giannakouris
    Volunteers help migrants and refugees on a dingy as they arrive at the shore of the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on Sunday, March 20, 2016

    However, as part of the deal, the EU was supposed to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to the EU by the end of July and accelerate its accession to becoming a full member of the EU.

    The deal had already run intro trouble over Erdogan's increasing grip on power, crackdown on opposition parties and the media as well as criticism of his human rights record. Since the attempted coup, however, his massive suppression of those associated with the coup — the judiciary, the military and the police — has been the cause of deep skepticism within the EU.

    If Turkey fails to meet the basic benchmarks on democracy and human rights required by the EU, the visa-free travel deal will be abandoned and — with it — the whole migrant deal, once again leading to another flood of migrants crossing into Europe.

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    Tags:
    EU-accession, EU membership, migrant crisis, refugees, EU-Turkey migrant deal, European Union, European Commission, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Christian Kern, Ankara, Brussels, Austria, Turkey, Europe
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