AUSTRIAN Chancellor Christian Kern has expressed concern that Turkey is heading toward a dictatorship — and questioned the wisdom of continuing negotiations over EU membership.
Mr Kern told a late evening newscast on Wednesday that it may be time to push the “reset button” on talks, adding he wants “critical discussions” of the topic at next month’s EU summit.
He declared that “there is no realistic perspective for membership” for Turkey.
Instead, the Austrian leader called for a new approach based on the need for close economic ties between the EU and Ankara.
Mr Kern spoke of “signs that are unmistakable” that Turkey is moving toward a dictatorship under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the country’s present democratic standards are “by far not enough to justify membership” in the EU.
He insisted that Ankara is also not ready for membership on economic grounds because its economy is “far away from a European average.”
At the same time, Mr Kern described Turkey as an important EU partner, saying that he did not believe that the Erdogan government wants to reject a deal slowing down the influx of refugees to Greece.
Turkey has agreed to take back refugees arriving on Greek islands in exchange for funding to help care for them and visa-free travel in the EU for Turks.
Even before the crackdown that followed last month’s coup attempt, those visa talks were foundering, with EU leaders saying that success depended on Ankara meeting EU democratic standards rather than eroding citizens’ rights.