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Ankara Accuses New Austria Gov’t of Racism Against Turkey

After months of political wrangling, Vienna has finally a government. As EU is reeling from political turbulence, given a lack of government in Berlin, the engine of the union, the news might normally have been reassuring.

But that’s not the case for Austria, which will now be governed by a government, coalition of conservatives and far-right Austria of the Freedom Party (FPOe).

Former Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz cruised his conservative People’s Party (OeVP) to an election victory. His deal with the far-right has had broad ripple effects in Brussels.

But the most vocal criticism came from somewhere else.

Turkey on Sunday slammed the incoming Austrian government for “discrimination” and “racist approaches” after its program pledged Vienna would not agree to Ankara joining the EU.

The landmark coalition deal, marking the return to power in far-right FPOe, has sparked ripples of concern throughout Europe after a year of successes for far-right movements.

The chancellor-elect, Sebastian Kurz of the conservative OeVP, already has a deeply-fractious relationship with Ankara due to his staunch opposition to Turkey’s EU bid while serving as foreign minister.

“This baseless and short-sighted statement in the new Austrian government’s program, unfortunately, confirms concerns about a political trend based on discrimination and marginalization,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik meanwhile said the incoming Austrian government had “started attacking fundamental democratic values without delay.”

In a barrage of tweets, he said Kurz was “even more radical than the far right.”

Slamming the EU for not condemning the government program, he said: “Ignoring the racist approaches in the Austrian government program… is a weakness.”

“Islamophobic, antisemitic, xenophobic and anti-migrant parties are on the rise. Now, this movement is in power in Austria,” Mr. Celik said. “Austria should draw lessons from recent history.”

Accusing the incoming government of “dishonesty,” the Turkish foreign ministry warned that if realized, the program would bring Austria “to the brink of losing Turkey’s friendship” and be met with “the reaction that it deserves.”

Turkey’s decades-long ambition to join the EU has hit the buffers in recent months as the bloc sounded the alarm over the crackdown that followed the 2016 coup bid aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Austria has called for the accession process to be formally halted, this has met with opposition from key EU members, notably Germany.

Meeting Erdogan on his trip to Greece earlier this month – the first by a Turkish president in 65 years – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also backed Turkey’s EU bid.

But last month, the EU cut funds destined to Turkey in the 2018 budget, citing doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights in a move supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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