VIENNA – Austria's chancellor has warned that Turkey is heading toward a dictatorship and is questioning the sense of continuing negotiations with it over EU membership.
Christian Kern told a late evening newscast Wednesday that it may be time to push the "reset button" on the talks, adding he wants "critical discussions" of the topic at next month's EU summit.
Kern said that "there is no realistic perspective for membership" for Turkey. Instead, the Austrian leader called for a "new approach" based on the need for close economic ties between the EU and Ankara.
He spoke of "signs that are unmistakable" that Turkey is moving toward a dictatorship under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the country's present democratic standards are "by far not enough to justify membership" in the EU.
Kern said Ankara also was not ready for membership on economic grounds because its economy is "far away from a European average."
At the same time, Kern described Turkey as an important EU partner, saying he did not believe it was ready to reject a deal meant to ease the influx of refugees to EU member Greece.
Under that agreement, Ankara is obliged to take back migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands in exchange for funding to help care for refugees and visa-free travel in the EU for Turks.
Even before the crackdown that followed last month's putsch attempt in Turkey, those visa talks were foundering, with EU leaders saying their success depended on Ankara meeting EU democratic standards instead what they said was an erosion of citizens' rights.