Austria to have a big say on Turkey’s EU future

The programme of Austria’s newly formed right-wing government says it should push for the European Union to end to accession negotiations with Turkey. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara responded angrily:

“The unfortunate and short-sighted statements regarding Turkey in the programme of the new government of Austria confirm that concerns are justified about the political movement which takes discrimination and alienation as its basis,” says the statement on its website.

“Moreover, trying to escape the obligations emanating from EU’s contractual commitments towards Turkey as if they do not exist, and to indicate that allies will be sought in doing this, is an approach far from being friendly, let alone honest.

Instead of looking for allies against global challenges, stating that allies will be sought to completely disregard the legitimate rights of our country and is also against political and diplomatic customs.

These statements are pushing the boundaries of losing the friendship of Turkey. Once tried to be put in effect they will receive the appropriate response.

The things we need to know about this new crisis with Austria are:

  • Austria is the only EU Member State publicly voicing for a long time that Turkey’s EU accession negotiations - completely frozen since June 2016 - cannot go on in this way and they should be ended;

    ·This attitude spearheaded by former Foreign Minister, now Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz means the negotiations cannot proceed in any way;

    ·Austria’s opposition is sufficient for the negotiations not to continue with Turkey, since decisions in matters regarding negotiations require unanimity;

    ·Although Austria seems to be alone, representatives of other EU countries do not act differently from those of Austria at all levels, during enlargement meetings in Brussels;

    ·Official proof that accession negotiations with Turkey are not proceeding is the 18-month action plan the EU prepared for the July 1, 2017 - December 31, 2018 period corresponding to the presidencies of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria. Just like the previous 18-month plan, this one also does not mention Turkey under the enlargement heading (p.16);

    ·Austria’s posture may lead to a concrete course that includes other members during Vienna’s presidency in the second half of 2018;

    ·Turkey, with its government and relevant non-governmental organisations (i.e. Economic Development Foundation IKV, Turkish Industry and Business Association TUSIAD), criticises the attitude of the new Austrian government by referencing to such concepts as pacta sunt servanda and European values in addition to the above note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

    ·Despite the EU’s arch-old unwillingness and lack of vision in the accession negotiations with Turkey, in the final analysis though the side that tramples on EU values and no longer fulfils the minimum conditions is the Turkish government;

    ·The EU has been long careful not to break off relations even knowing that Ankara was not complying with the Copenhagen Political Criteria for years and thus there was a need for a review;

    ·Indeed, although it has never been implemented until today, Article 5 of the “Principles Governing the Negotiations” in the Negotiating Framework document is very clear:

In the case of a serious and persistent breach in Turkey of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded, the Commission will, on its own initiative or on the request of 1/3 of the Member States, recommend the suspension of negotiations and propose the conditions for eventual resumption. The Council will decide by qualified majority on such a recommendation, after having heard Turkey, whether to suspend the negotiations and on the conditions for their resumption;

·It is clear that the political environment in Turkey doesn’t contradict the shortcomings specified in Article 5;

·Finally, Austria is a country that will have a say on Turkey’s EU process far beyond expectations;

·In addition to the Austrian government’s attitude, the Commissioner for Enlargement Policy in the European Commission Johannes Hahn is Austrian. Ambassador Christian Berger, the Representative of the European Commission in Ankara, is Austrian as well.