New German govt open to Turkish EU bid

17th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The parties in the new coalition, Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), agreed "unanimously" to stick with the last government's position, the sources said.

Berlin -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's new governing coalition is set to keep the door open to Turkey joining the European Union, sources close to talks hammering out a joint programme said on Thursday.

The parties in the new coalition, Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), agreed "unanimously" to stick with the last government's position, the sources said.

The position of the previous coalition of the CDU/CSU with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) was that Turkish negotiations to join the EU were "an open-ended process" and that membership was neither automatic nor guaranteed.

"Should the EU not be in a position to accept it, or if Turkey is not in a position to meet and fully abide by the commitments necessary for membership, Turkey must be linked as closely as possibly to European structures in such a way as to develop further its privileged relationship with the EU," it stated.

In elections on September 27, Merkel ditched the SPD and is now in talks on forming a new coalition with the FDP, a process she hopes to have wrapped up in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.

There was speculation that the new government might take a tougher line on Turkey, with Merkel's party saying in its election programme that "a privileged partnership rather than full membership is the right solution."

In June, during campaigning for European elections, Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy made clear during a visit to Berlin by the French president that they were both opposed to Turkey joining the 27-nation bloc.

The FDP, whose leader Guido Westerwelle is widely expected to become Germany's new foreign minister, is more open to Turkish membership, although it believes Turkey has to do more in areas such as Kurdish rights and the Cyprus question before it is ready to join.

The SPD, now relegated to the opposition benches after 11 years in government following a disastrous election result last month, was also more open to Turkey joining.

On Wednesday the EU, in its annual report on countries wanting to become members, rapped Turkey over its human rights record and voiced serious concern over pressure on the media.

Ankara was praised for reaching a deal with Armenia over a "genocide" row going back to World War I -- but criticised for refusal to open its ports to Cyprus as demanded under an EU customs accord.

Turkey began accession negotiations in 2005, but has so far opened just 11 of the 35 chapters that candidates must complete, with only one even provisionally closed.

Eight others have been frozen since 2006 over the customs dispute with EU member Cyprus.

Germany is home to the world's biggest Turkish diaspora.

AFP/Expatica

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