Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Interview with Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz: 'Europe's Values Cannot Be Negotiable'.

Interview with Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz: 'Europe's Values Cannot Be Negotiable'. (Spiegel).

SPIEGEL: In recent presidential elections, almost 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots for Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). This came as a shock for many people in Europe. Do you have an explanation?

Kurz: Yes, and it is not as simple as the one that is sometimes given. There is, first of all, a serious dissatisfaction with the government and with the political system, in part because important reforms are not taking place. The second main reason is the refugee crisis. In Austria last year, we had 90,000 asylum applicants -- the second-largest per capita figure in all European countries. There was a phase of uncontrolled influx into Europe. Many politicians tried to tell the people that this is not a problem in terms of security or integration. Both led to a strengthening of right-wing populist parties, which is not purely an Austrian phenomenon.

SPIEGEL: Are you afraid that Europe is making itself dependent on Turkey?

Kurz: The Turkey deal can only be Plan B. Plan A needs to be a strong Europe that is prepared to defend its external borders on its own. If we do not do that, then we are living in a Europe that is dependent -- on other countries, and possibly even on personalities like President Erdogan. And dependency is dangerous.

SPIEGEL: Political developments in Turkey are worrisome. The immunity of lawmakers was recently lifted. Is this a result of the deal -- because Erdogan now has free rein?

Kurz: Not a result of the deal, but a matter of fact. How we deal with it is crucial. Europe's fundamental values cannot be negotiable. Keyword visa-liberalization: There cannot be any exceptions for Turkey either.

SPIEGEL: Erdogan is threatening to terminate the agreement, which creates the impression that he is pushing the Europeans around.

Kurz: If we Europeans are not in a state to be able to solve the refugee crisis ourselves, if we only depend on Plan B with Turkey -- then that is not simply an impression, it is the truth. But Europe cannot be susceptible to blackmail or be weak. I am, in any case, not in favor of having a deal with Turkey at any price.

SPIEGEL: Turkey is refusing to reform its anti-terror law. Do you think that the liberalization of visa regulations will still take place this year?

Kurz: That depends. I have gotten the sense in the last year that developments when it comes to human rights are very alarming. In the long term, it needs to be in our interest to have a Turkey in which human rights are respected. Anything else would mean destabilization right on our border. If we look away, the developments in Turkey will constantly get worse. Read the full interview here.

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