Juncker Endorses EU-Turkey Talks

Juncker Endorses EU-Turkey TalksJuncker Endorses EU-Turkey Talks

The European Commission president says EU accession talks with Turkey should continue. Jean-Claude Juncker rejected an Austrian push to halt membership negotiations after rights violations following a failed coup.

Juncker said EU membership talks with Turkey should continue. However, Juncker also told the German public broadcaster ARD that, at the moment, Turkey would not become a member of the European Union—comments that could further strain relations between the nation and the EU, DPA reported.

“Turkey, in the state it is currently in, cannot become a member of the European Union,” Juncker told ARD in Brussels on Thursday.

He said, however, that “I don’t think it would be helpful if we would unilaterally tell Turkey that the negotiations are over.” As for a bloc-wide consensus on breaking off talks, Juncker said, “I don’t see this willingness among all member states at this point in time.”

Officials in Ankara have said they could ditch a refugee swap with the bloc that sends rejected asylum-seekers to Turkey and requires the EU to take in displaced Syrians on a one-to-one basis.

As part of that deal, the bloc had pledged to grant visa-free travel to Turks and accelerate membership talks—a process that began in 1999.

Turkey’s post-coup crackdown has led to several rights violations. Authorities have detained 25,000 people, tens of thousands of civil servants, including soccer referees, have lost their jobs, and the government has arrested several journalists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he might reintroduce capital punishment after the failed July 15 putsch.

Citing such events, on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for further discussion on membership talks, saying he would raise the issue at an EU summit on September 16.

“We know that Turkey’s democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify accession,” Kern had told the Austrian daily “Die Presse”. In a separate interview with the public broadcaster ORF, he called negotiations with Turkey “a diplomatic fiction”.

Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik said the criticism from Austrian officials had a nationalist bent.

“To be honest, I find it extremely disturbing that this kind of statement bears such similarity to the statements of rightwing extremists in Europe,” Celik said on Thursday, according to the Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Also on Thursday, an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, stating that he had ordered the coup, Anadolu reported.

Turkish officials say they have demanded Gulen’s extradition from the United States, where he lives. Washington has said it is reviewing documents, but is not sure there is a formal extradition request included. In any case, the US says it won’t extradite the cleric without direct evidence of a link to the failed coup.