April 20, 2018 / 7:51 AM / 2 years ago

Austria says will bar Turkish politicians from campaigning on its soil

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Austria April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s right-wing coalition government, which is strongly opposed to Turkey joining the European Union, will bar Turkish politicians from campaigning on its territory ahead of June elections in Turkey, the chancellor has said.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called snap parliamentary and presidential elections this week, bringing the votes forward by more than a year so that Turkey can switch to a powerful new executive presidency system that was narrowly approved in a referendum last year.

Ahead of that referendum, Turkish ministers sought to drum up support in countries with large Turkish communities, like the Netherlands and Germany. Those countries imposed bans on security grounds that angered Istanbul, and Erdogan and some of his allies at the time compared the German government to the Nazi regime.

“Erdogan’s Turkish leadership has been trying to exploit Europe’s communities of Turkish origin for many years,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told ORF radio in remarks broadcast on Friday. “Turkish election campaign appearances in Austria are unwanted and we will therefore no longer allow them.”

Austria’s opposition to such events is, however, not new.

The previous chancellor, a Social Democrat, said last year that he would try to prohibit any campaign appearances by Turkish ministers. A law has since been passed giving the government greater powers to ban foreign political gatherings.

Several hundred thousand people in Austria are Turkish or of Turkish origin.

Kurz’s conservatives are in a coalition government with the anti-Islam Freedom Party, making Austria the only western European country to have a far-right party in government. Both parties believe the European Union should break off Turkish accession talks.

When asked if Austria would prevent campaign events by all Turkish political parties, however, Kurz said it would.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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