The Austrian foreign minister has warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against meddling in European elections after the Turkish head of state urged nationals of his country in Germany not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition allies.
“The constant interference of Erdogan in the internal affairs of other countries is something I clearly reject,” Sebastian Kurz said in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt on Sunday.
Erdogan urged voters of Turkish origin in Germany not to vote for Merkel’s coalition in next month’s elections.
“President Erdogan is trying to manipulate Turkish communities, especially in Germany and Austria. He is polarizing and importing conflicts from Turkey to the EU,” he added.
Kurz urged the EU to cancel accession talks with Ankara until it meets the bloc’s demands and shows respect for democracy and human rights.
“The precondition for accession talks is compliance with the so-called Copenhagen criteria, including respect for democracy and human rights. This has not been the case [in Turkey] for a long time,” he added.
The Copenhagen criteria are the rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the European Union.
Last month, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern ruled out any possibility of Turkey’s membership in the EU.
Kern told German media in July that “economic considerations” and “democratic reasons” made Turkey’s accession bid to the EU bloc impossible. “It is legitimate to tell the Ankara regime clearly: you simply are not a candidate for membership,” he added.
On Friday, Erdogan urged German Turks not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Martin Schulz’s Social Democrat Party (SDP) or the Green Party in the upcoming federal elections on 24 September, criticizing their anti-Turkish stances.
Erdogan’s remarks drew an angry reaction from German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said it was “an unprecedented act of interference in the sovereignty of our country.”
The Turkish leader hit back at Gabriel, saying, “Now they have a foreign minister who does not know his limits.”
“Who are you to talk to the President of Turkey? Talk to the Foreign Minister of Turkey. Know your limits. He dares to lecture us. What is your background in politics? How old are you?” Erdogan responded to Gabriel.
Earlier this year, several EU countries with large Turkish communities, such as Germany and Austria, banned pro-Ankara rallies ahead of a controversial referendum in April, which granted sweeping powers to the Turkish president.
Erdogan repeatedly angered European powers by slamming their bans as a “Nazi tactic.”