VADUZ (Reuters) - Germany’s foreign minister on Friday resisted a push by Austria to halt talks with Turkey on joining the European Union, saying the bloc needed to think more broadly about how to frame its relationship with Ankara in troubled times.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said their close political, economic and human ties meant both sides should find a way forward as neighbours, rather than focusing solely on the timing of the accession talks, which he said were “as good as deadlocked”.
“For me a different question is of decisive importance, namely the question of how to manage the relationship with Turkey in this difficult situation and what we can do for those who have been arrested (following a coup attempt),” he said.
European leaders are concerned by the scale of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected dissidents after last month’s failed coup.
Addressing a news conference after meeting with other German-speaking foreign ministers in Liechtenstein, Steinmeier said reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey - as Erdogan has suggested - would be incompatible with EU values.
Ankara’s ties with the EU, and Vienna especially, descended into name-calling on Friday, with Turkey’s foreign minister calling Austria the “capital of radical racism” after Chancellor Christian Kern suggested ending the EU accession talks, which have made minimal progress since they began in 2005.
Steinmeier spoke just after Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, referring to the promise of visa-free travel for Turks to the EU and accelerated talks on membership, told the same news conference: “I definitely don’t see either of these.”
Turkey has so far lived up to its side of a landmark deal with Brussels to stop illegal migration to Europe via its shores, in return for financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the bloc and accelerated talks on membership.
But Ankara has complained Europe is not living up to its side of the accord.
Steinmeier hoped to restore direct talks between Berlin and Ankara.
“I will work to ensure that the dialogue with Turkey does not occur solely via megaphones and microphones and cameras,” he said. “There is no alternative, even if it is difficult in these times.”
Germany is home to around 3 million people of Turkish origin. In Turkey’s last national elections, 60 percent of them voted for Turkey’s ruling AKP Party, according to the organisation of Turkish Communities in Germany.
Reporting by Reuters TV, Paul Carrel and Andrea Shalal