The European Union isn’t going to admit Turkey in the near future, but it continues to pretend otherwise nevertheless. Yesterday, EU ministers brushed aside Austria, which had been seeking to halt negotiations because of Turkey’s massive crackdowns. Politico EU reports:
Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, threatened to block adoption of conclusions on EU enlargement before they are passed on to leaders when they meet in Brussels Thursday. To have Council conclusions that are legally binding requires unanimity. They can still be approved without the support of every country, and are then known as “presidency conclusions.”
That was the option foreign and Europe ministers chose at Tuesday’s talks in Brussels.
The ministers adopted presidency conclusions on the membership progress achieved by “Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegevina and Kosovo,” Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s foreign minister, said at a press conference.
“We wanted to achieve more, we wanted to have Council conclusions. However, one country was unable to support a compromise.”
The EU can’t oppose Turkey because it needs Erdogan’s help with refugees. Brussels naively sought to protect its ideals by admitting refugees, ran up against what should have been foreseeable limits, and is now forced to hold its nose and work with a regime that clearly doesn’t share European values. What all of this shows is that, despite its moralizing, the EU is still governed by a certain realpolitik.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Austrians have their own, not-so-human-rights-based reasons to fear Turkish accession. Austria already has somewhere between 180,000 and 350,000 Turkish residents depending on how one counts them, and tensions over the population have been mounting. Over the summer and in the lead-up to the defeat of the far-Right last week, Austrian politicians spoke hawkishly about their Turkish minority. Austria fears that a wave of Turkish migrants might follow Turkey’s accession to the Union.
The Austrians have a famous history of standing up to Turkey, although they did ally with the Ottomans in World War I when the two powers no longer shared a border. For over three hundred years, the Ottomans and the Austro-Hungarians repeatedly fought wars, and Vienna was viewed across Christendom as a bulwark staving off Muslim aggression.
What the Austrians no longer have, however, is the power of an empire to persuade the rest of Europe to bend to their will. Which, in a way, is the condition of Europe itself: fractured and weak, Brussels finds itself unable to definitively forestall further compromise with an increasingly autocratic Turkish regime.