By Simon STURDEE
Vienna (AFP) Nov 7, 2016
Austria's foreign minister said Monday the EU should get tough on Turkey following its crackdown on the opposition and the media, and stop the flow of billions of euros in aid if Ankara fails to stick to its migrant deal with the bloc.
Sebastian Kurz said Turkey must "top the agenda" of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers next Monday that should agree a "different EU policy".
"Over recent years Turkey has moved further and further away from the EU, but our policy has remained the same. That can't work. What we need are clear consequences," Kurz told Oel radio.
"In Turkey, opposition figures are being arrested, journalists are being persecuted, officials are being fired if they think differently and the return of the death penalty is being talked about."
Under the EU deal with Turkey in force since March, Brussels has promised an acceleration of accession talks, visa liberalisation and three billion euros ($3.3 billion) in return for taking back migrants who make it to Greece.
"This does not correspond to the situation in Turkey and as a result this policy must be changed," Kurz said.
Stopping the funds "is the logical consequence... It is quite clear that this money will not flow if Turkey does not stick to its side of the deal," he said.
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides defended the deal in a visit to Vienna on Monday, saying that the money went to people in need rather than the Turkish government.
"Taxpayers' money is used exclusively for the needs of refugees," the Austria Press Agency quoted Stylianides as saying.
Turkey's Western allies are concerned that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using a state of emergency imposed after the July coup attempt to crack down not just on plotters but on critics in general.
Some 35,000 people have been arrested while tens of thousands more have been fired from their jobs. The main pro-Kurdish party on Sunday said it was pulling out of parliament after nine of its MPs including the two co-leaders were arrested.
- Slow progress -
Progress implementing the Turkey-EU deal has fallen short of expectations, with Greece slow to send migrants back to Turkey.
Athens says they cannot be sent back until their asylum claims are processed. It also complains of a lack of support from the rest of the EU.
Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said Sunday that EU countries "cannot rely on Turkey" and should start reinforcing their borders.
Doskozil said Monday after meeting regional counterparts from the Central European Defence Cooperation body that interior ministers from the group would now work on an action plan to prepare themselves for a collapse of the agreement.
"Since the deal between the EU and Turkey is becoming ever more fragile and cracks are showing, we need to be able to act ourselves," APA quoted Doskozil as saying at the meeting in Austria.
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