Germany seeks compromise on contested Turkey EU bid

24th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Germany was seeking on Monday to overcome a division with most of its European Union partners over reopening Turkey's stalled bid to join the bloc, a diplomatic source said.

Berlin last week blocked moves to reopen Turkey-EU membership talks for the first time in three years -- at a meeting due to take place in Brussels on Wednesday -- because of Ankara's massive crackdown on a wave of anti-government protests.

The German stance triggered a surge in tensions between Ankara and Berlin last week, with sharp words exchanged and each calling in the other's ambassadors for explanations.

The issue was at the top of the agenda as foreign ministers arrived for one-day talks in Luxembourg, with Germany finding some support from Austria and the Netherlands but facing opposition from other quarters. No final decision was expected until Tuesday however.

"We can't ignore what has happened in the last weeks," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

But apparently softening his stand, he said: "We are aware of our responsibility for the longterm strategic developments in the relations to Turkey".

At stake is an EU offer to Turkey to open a so-called new "chapter" -- or set of policy and regulations -- in its eight-year negotiation process with the bloc. So far Turkey and the EU have closed, or agreed, only one of 35 chapters needed to gain entry into the EU club.

"Germany is working on a compromise concerning the opening of Chapter 22. Westerwelle is in close contact with numerous European partners and Turkey on the margins of the Council (of ministers)," a German government source said.

Any move to reopen Turkey's long-stalled bid for EU membership by discussing Chapter 22 on regional policy must have unanimity between the 27 member states, and as is often the case the ministers walked into the meeting poles apart.

Asked whether the EU should change policy after the Turkish government's harsh crackdown against protesters, Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt said: "No."

"The European Union is a strategic entity that pursues strategic policies. We are not guided by the short term things now and then.

"Accession is one of the most successful, one of the most profoundly important policies of the EU that has brought peace and stability to the continent. It is not something subject to short term whims."

Westerwelle said he had had talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the weekend and that he hoped to use the Luxembourg talks "to find a common position with our European partners".


© 2013 AFP

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