Austria against military cooperation with Turkey due to backsliding in democracy: minister

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Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner has voiced objections to Turkey’s participation in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) due its failure to embrace basic democratic values, the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Monday.

PESCO is the part of the European Union’s security and defense policy in which 25 of the 27 national armed forces pursue structural integration.

“Turkey applied as a third country to participate in an EU project within the framework of increased cooperation in European security and defense policy, which aims to improve military mobility in Europe by investing billions in infrastructure. Austria is against it for formal reasons,” said Tanner.

According to Vienna, the “admission requirements” for the participation of third countries are not met in the case of Turkey. “Article 2 of the relevant treaty clearly states that the third countries in question should share the EU’s democratic values and have good neighborly relations with the EU,” said the Austrian minister.

Turkey has been receiving growing criticism from international rights groups about the deterioration of its human rights record and democracy particularly after a failed coup in July 2016 following which the government launched a massive crackdown on critics under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

The country attracted international condemnation when it withdrew from an international treaty, known as Istanbul Convention, to combat domestic violence earlier this year and launched a closure case against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the country’s second largest opposition party.

Tanner also said there should already be a joint dialogue on defense and security issues with Turkey and that that is not the case now. “I, therefore, do not believe that we will accept this request [from Turkey] or that Turkey will be able to participate in EU defense policy in the foreseeable future,” she added.

Turkey submitted an application to take part in PESCO to the government of the Netherlands at the beginning of May, which is responsible for the corresponding EU project for faster military transport in Europe.

Third countries have been able to participate in the project since last autumn, and they are even specifically invited to do so. The planned improvement in military mobility is also expected to benefit NATO. Hence, NATO countries such as the US, Canada and Norway are also participating in PESCO.

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