The Latest: Austria: Deeper EU-Turkey ties are up to Ankara
Jul. 25, 2017
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on talks between Turkish and European Union officials in Brussels Tuesday (all times local):
Austria's chancellor is renewing his argument that Turkey shouldn't become a European Union member and says that even an expansion of the Turkey-EU customs union should come with tough conditions.
Austria has been among Ankara's most outspoken critics in the 28-nation EU and argued for freezing membership talks with Turkey.
Chancellor Christian Kern was quoted Tuesday as telling Germany's daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "I think EU membership is excluded, and an expansion of the customs union is only conceivable if Turkey fulfills tough rule-of-law conditions."
Kern says it's up to Turkey to act before there can be "an element of a new relationship between the EU and Turkey."
He added that "Turkey is massively dependent on Europe and the West."
The Turkish government's crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists and others following last year's failed coup has endangered Turkey's bid for EU membership.
Talks between top European Union officials and Turkey's foreign minister appeared to do little to ease tensions between the 28-nation bloc and Ankara over a wave of detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and others.
After the meeting in Brussels, European enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn expressed "very strong concern" about the detentions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu defended the government crackdown that came in the aftermath of last year's failed coup as part of the fight against terrorism.
Turkey has been mired in a diplomatic row with EU powerhouse Germany following the arrests last week of a group of human rights activists, including a German national, on terror-related charges.
Earlier, a German-Turkish journalist was arrested for allegedly spying and aiding Kurdish rebels.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ramped up his anti-Western rhetoric, saying the era of a submissive Turkey bowing to every Western demand is over.
Erdogan's comments comes as top European Union officials hold talks with Turkey's foreign minister in Brussels on Tuesday.
Turkey has been mired in an escalating diplomatic row with Germany following the arrests last week of a group of human rights activists, including a German national, over terror-related charges. Earlier, a German-Turkish journalist was arrested for allegedly spying and aiding Kurdish rebels.
Erdogan said: "the West wants Turkey to bring about their demands no questions asked... I am sorry to say that Turkey no longer exists."
The Turkish leader refused to back down in the feud with Germany, saying his country would continue "to breathe down the neck of agents who run around freely" in Turkey.
Top European Union officials are to hold talks with Turkey's foreign minister against a backdrop of growing concern that Ankara is sliding away from EU values as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightens his grip on power and cracks down on perceived opponents.
Tuesday's talks come with Turkey's long-standing bid for EU membership in the deep freeze and criticism of Erdogan's authoritarian rule swelling, particularly in powerful EU member state Germany.
Those strained relations will likely cast a shadow over discussions between EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and EU affairs ministers Omer Celik in Brussels.
Discussions are expected to touch on issues including Ankara's EU accession, immigration, Turkey's demands for visa-free travel for its citizens, the fight against terrorism and energy and trade ties.