Turkey accuses new Austria government of racism

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Sunday slammed the incoming Austrian government, a coalition between conservatives and the far-right, for discrimination and racism, after its program pledged Vienna would not agree to Ankara joining the EU.

The landmark coalition deal, marking the return to power in Austria of the Freedom Party (FPOe), has sparked ripples of concern throughout Europe after a year of successes for far-right movements.

The chancellor-elect, Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People’s Party (OeVP), already has a deeply fractious relationship with Ankara due to his staunch opposition to Turkey’s EU bid while serving as foreign minister.

“This baseless and short-sighted statement in the new Austrian government’s program unfortunately confirms concerns about a political trend based on discrimination and marginalization,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik meanwhile said the incoming Austrian government had “started attacking fundamental democratic values without delay.”

Turkish minister for European Union affiars Omer Celik. (CC-BY-SA/Wikipedia)

In a barrage of tweets, he said Kurz was “even more radical than the far right.”

Slamming the EU for not condemning the government program, he said: “Ignoring the racist approaches in the Austrian government program… is a weakness.”

“Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and anti-migrant parties are on the rise. Now this movement is in power in Austria,” Celik said. “Austria should draw lessons from recent history.”

Accusing the incoming government of “dishonesty,” the Turkish foreign ministry warned that if realized, the program would bring Austria “to the brink of losing Turkey’s friendship” and be met with “the reaction that it deserves.”

Turkey’s decades-long ambition to join the EU has hit the buffers in recent months as the bloc sounded the alarm over the crackdown that followed the 2016 coup bid aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Austria has called for the accession process to be formally halted, this has met with opposition from key EU members, notably Germany.

Meeting Erdogan on his trip to Greece earlier this month — the first by a Turkish president in 65 years — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also backed Turkey’s EU bid.

But last month, the EU cut funds destined to Turkey in the 2018 budget, citing doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights in a move supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.



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