Schroeder backsTurkey's EU drive

23rd February 2004, Comments 0 comments

23 February 2004 , ANKARA - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder assured Turkish leaders Monday of Berlin's support for Turkish efforts to join the European Union. "Turkey can count on it," he told reporters after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - but adding that conditions set by the European Commission for a start of Turkish membership negotiations must first be in place. "There is a strong chance of this being the case by the end of the year," Schroeder said. Turkish EU membership

23 February 2004

ANKARA - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder assured Turkish leaders Monday of Berlin's support for Turkish efforts to join the European Union.

"Turkey can count on it," he told reporters after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - but adding that conditions set by the European Commission for a start of Turkish membership negotiations must first be in place.

"There is a strong chance of this being the case by the end of the year," Schroeder said. Turkish EU membership would represent "an increase in security which one cannot estimate too highly," he added.

Turkey's "stabilising role" in the region had "increased, not decreased" - under Erdogan's premiership both politically and economically, Schroeder said. A start of EU membership negotiations would mean "even more economic dynamism".

Schroeder added that the already close economic cooperation between Germany and Turkey could be developed further - particularly in the transport and energy fields.

EU leaders are due to decide in December whether to open negotiations for Turkish membership in the soon-to-be 25-nation bloc. A final decision will be based on Ankara's progress in the issues of democratic reform, human rights and the rule of law.

Schroeder arrived late Sunday for a two-day visit while facing continued resistance from German's opposition parties to any Turkish membership of the EU.

He was set to hold further talks Monday and Tuesday with Turkish government and business leaders on the country's joining the EU and on strengthening trade ties.

In addition to Erdogan, Schroeder was to meet President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and business leaders during stops in Ankara and Istanbul.

Schroeder's longstanding support for full Turkish EU membership contrasts with German opposition leader Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who last week visited Turkey and expressed reservations.

German President Johannes Rau has held a compromise position saying that Turkey could be accepted into the EU when "religious and press freedom or the proscription of torture not only are guaranteed by (the country's) parliamentary decisions, but implemented in practical life".

Edmund Stoiber, head of the CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU, had underlined his opposition to Turkish EU membership in an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung Saturday.

"If you accept Turkey (in the EU) it will be the end of the vision of a European political union," he said. Europe would become a free trade zone without any political might, he said.

DPA
Subject: German news

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