Jul 03 2018

Dialogue with new EU president Austria will be ‘minimal,’ says gov’t official  

Ankara does not expect to have good dialogue with new European Union term president Austria given the ongoing tensions between Ankara and Vienna, pro-government Hürriyet Daily News reported a government official as saying.

Turkey has been on poor terms with Austria, which took over the rotating six-month EU presidency this month, with a Turkish presidential spokesman calling a move by Austria earlier this month to close down mosques accused of radicalism “a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave” in the country.

Turkey will focus on legislations to meet remaining benchmarks in order to start visa liberalization process, but the Turkish government will first conclude necessary arrangements for restructure of its bureaucracy, according to the official.

Austria, as part of its presidency, is set to have an important say in setting the agenda at the many meetings between member states and it already as announced it plans to use its presidency to shift toward preventing further waves of migrant arrivals.

Austria’s coalition government of  Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and the anti-Islam Freedom Party, makes Austria the only western European country to have a far-right party in government. Kurz has openly opposed Turkey’s EU membership.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu previously stated that he did not expect positive steps on opening new chapters, or policy areas, in Turkey’s accession bid in the coming term, but added that the issue of visa liberalization and updating Turkey’s Customs Union agreement with the bloc would be discussed with the bloc’s officials.

Turkey, whose EU bid began in 2005, was not invited to an EU summit on potential enlargement with six western Balkan countries in Sofia last month.