Turkey 'not fit to join the EU' in wake of Erdogan crackdown
Divisions between the European Union and Turkey have deepened after Austria called for talks on Turkish membership to be scrapped.
Christian Kern, the Austrian chancellor, described the meetings on eventual Turkish accession as a "diplomatic fiction" in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on democratic freedoms since last month's failed coup.
Mr Kern said he would seek to have the talks formally closed by EU leaders next month. "We know the democratic standards in Turkey are nowhere near good enough to justify a candidacy for EU membership," he told Austrian television. "I see Turkish accession as an impossibility for years, if not for decades."
The Turkish government reacted furiously. "It's disturbing that his statements are similar to those of the far-Right," said Omer Celik, the Turkish minister for EU affairs. "Criticism is surely a democratic right, but there has to be a difference between criticising Turkey and being against Turkey."
Turkey has bridled at a growing denunciation of the crackdown from European capitals and threatened to withdraw from a migrant deal with the EU - potentially sending hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to Europe - unless its citizens are granted visa-free travel to the Schengen area by October.
Austria, one of Mr Erdogan's leading EU critics since the coup attempt, dismissed the threat as brinkmanship.
"We must not come before Ankara on our knees," Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, told Germany's Spiegel magazine, insisting that the EU has the economic upper hand in any negotiations with Turkey.