Austria bars Turkish Economy Minister Zeybekci over rally plans
VIENNA: Austria said yesterday it had barred Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci from entering the country to attend a rally marking the anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey. “He has been barred because his visit was not planned as part of a bilateral exchange, but was about his public appearance at an event marking the coup attempt,” foreign ministry spokesman Thomas Schnoell said. Zeybekci’s attendance at the “large event” would have represented a “danger for public order”, Schnoell added.
The rally is scheduled to take place in Vienna on Sunday. It is being organised by the Austrian branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a pro-Ankara group present in several European Union countries. UETD spokesman Ramazan Aktas called Vienna’s move “undemocratic”. It came three days after the Dutch government warned Turkey against sending its deputy premier, Tugrul Turkes, to address a rally in the eastern Netherlands this week to mark the abortive coup.
Ties between Ankara and the EU have been strained over the crackdown that followed the July 15 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Earlier this year, several member states including Austria and Germany banned proAnkara rallies ahead of a controversial referendum in April on granting Erdogan sweeping powers.
Turkish ministers had been heading to Europe to whip up support for a “yes” vote among millions of Turkey’s voters who live abroad. Some 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 11,700 Turkish citizens. Many are believed to be proErdogan supporters whose vote helped him win the referendum.