German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday said Turkey will never be a member of the European Union as long as it is governed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Gabriel’s remarks came during an interview with the Bild daily following a series of disputes between the two NATO allies.
Accusing Turkey of not taking EU accession talks seriously, Gabriel said: “It is clear that in this state, Turkey will never become a member of the EU. It’s not because we don’t want them but because the Turkish government and Erdogan are quickly moving away from everything that Europe stands for.”
Gabriel asked how a country banning freedom of thought, arresting innocent people and oppressing the opposition could become a member of the EU and added that Germany does not have any problems with the Turkish people but with the Turkish government and its policies.
Reiterating his call for caution for Germans travelling to Turkey, Gabriel argued that anyone who does not accept Erdoğan and who is suspected of having links to the Gülen movement is viewed as a terrorist by Turkish government.
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik on Wednesday said Gabriel “was copying from the far-right and racists” and “reached the same level as the refugee enemy and symbol of racist politics: the Austrian foreign minister [Sebastian Kurz].”
Gabriel said, in response to Çelik, that such statements mean the Turkish government does not have any arguments left.
Despite reactions from Berlin “not to interfere in internal affairs,” Erdoğan recently urged Turks living in Germany not to vote for anti-Turkish parties in Germany’s general elections next month, further straining the tension between Ankara and Berlin.
Turkey has been criticized by Germany and several other EU members due to Erdoğan’s crackdown on opponents, including journalists and human rights defenders, in the wake of a botched coup attempt last year. Erdoğan has increased his presidential powers after a referendum in April, claiming that it is necessary to protect Turkey’s security from its domestic and foreign enemies.