Austria Would Prevent Turkish Campaigning After ‘Provocations’

  • Chancellor Kern says Erdogan pursues ‘escalation strategy’
  • Sees conflict ‘between political Islam and European values’

Austria will try to prevent visiting Turkish ministers from campaigning for a constitutional referendum on the grounds of public safety and because they promote “abolishing democracy,” Chancellor Christian Kern told Austrian television.

“We couldn’t just sit and watch such an appearance, but would try to prevent it on the grounds of public security,” Kern told Austrian public broadcaster ORF in an interview Monday night. “So shortly before the referendum in Turkey, there is a conscious strategy of escalation. I assume that the Turkish side could try to continue this game in Austria, too.”

Dutch authorities prevented Turkish ministers last week from addressing rallies over Turkey’s coming referendum on transferring sweeping powers to the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In his rebuke, Erdogan said the Netherlands would “pay the price” and announced a reassessment of Turkey’s relationship with the European Union.

Kern said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had tried to find an “amicable solution” with Turkey, but that “the will wasn’t there” on the Turkish side, which he said is deliberately provoking conflicts with European governments.

“We’re not aiming for that, on the contrary, de-escalation would be the order of the day,” Kern said. “But at the moment there is no partner with whom we could pursue de-escalation.”

While freedom of assembly was an important value for which members of his Social Democratic Party had themselves “fought with blood” decades ago, it was a “perversion” if Turkey was citing this freedom now, Kern said.

“This is a conflict of political Islam with European values,” Kern said. “Freedom of assembly is a high value but on the other hand there’s political campaigning for a referendum that’s more or less about abolishing democracy in Turkey. This is a perversion of the freedom of assembly.”

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