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Austria Is Right To Oppose Turkey's EU Bid

Imagine you're a hiring manager and a job candidate has just walked through the door to your office. He's sporting cargo shorts, a stained Hawaiian shirt and flip flops.

He reaches out a greasy paw to shake your hand, walks over to the window and hocks a loogie into the parking lot below, then plops down in a chair, kicking his feet up on your desk.

Despite your initial thoughts, you continue with the interview. As you run down the list of job requirements, the candidate interrupts you.

"I don't make copies," he says, digging a finger into his left nostril. "I'm also not much of a people person, so if you could go ahead and put me in my own office, preferably a corner office with a nice view, that'd be great."

You try to wrap up the interview politely, but the candidate from hell isn't having it. He insists you tell him whether he's got the job, and he doesn't like the answer.

"This is personal, isn't it?" the candidate says. "You're making a big mistake!"

That about sums up Turkey's response to the news that European powers aren't keen on welcoming the Eurasian country of 80 million into the European Union.

Like any job applicant, or any hopeful looking to get into an exclusive club, Turkey should have been on its best behavior these past few years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should be working to instill the western democratic values shared by EU member countries.

Instead, he's done the opposite.

Erogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party have "demonstrated a growing intolerance of political opposition, public protest, and critical media," according to Human Rights Watch. "Government interference with the courts and prosecutors has undermined judicial independence and the rule of law."

Turkey is temporary home to around 2.2 million Syrian refugees, but Human Rights Watch says they're treated poorly, stuck in limbo without access to employment, education or basic human needs.

The Turkish government's response to the failed coup attempt of July 15 is another stain on the country's reputation. Erdogan and the government "unleashed a purge that goes far beyond holding to account those involved in trying to overthrow it," Human Rights Watch's Benjamin Ward wrote.

The Turkish government used the coup attempt as an excuse to unseat dissidents -- or perceived dissidents -- from every conceivable position of power. More than 40,000 Turkish citizens have been removed from their posts, including judges, prosecutors, journalists, and the leaders of every university in the country, according to HRW. A Reuters report says another 60,000 people have been detained or placed under investigation.

Less than two weeks after the failed coup, Erdogan's government "closed down three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 journals, and 29 publishing houses and distribution companies," Ward wrote.

European allies are rattled, and rightly so. But to hear Erdogan's lackeys tell it, any hesitation on the part of the EU to admit Turkey is simply an indication of bias against the country, and personal grudges against Erdogan himself. That sort of response is right out of the dictator's playbook -- when things go wrong at home, blame external forces and appeal to nationalism.

"Unfortunately the EU is making some serious mistakes," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a state-run news agency on Aug. 9, Reuters reported. "They have failed the test following the coup attempt ... Their issue is anti-Turkey and anti-Erdogan sentiment."

In the meantime, Erdogan himself has begun talking about reviving the death penalty in his country, a move that would put him at odds with European leaders and derail any remaining hope of EU accession.

Turkey has failed its job interview. If this is the Turkish government and Erdogan on their best behavior, imagine the things they might do if they're admitted to the EU and no longer have to keep up appearances.

Is it any surprise that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz says his country will block any efforts to renew accession negotiations? As long as Turkey is headed down its current path, Europe shouldn't budge.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Bloomberg, European Union, Human Rights Watch (2) (3), Reuters / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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