Germany-Turkey tensions flare over EU bid

21st June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Amid a sharp spike in tensions between Turkey and the EU, Germany summoned the Turkish ambassador Friday over furious criticism from Ankara of resistance to its bid to join the bloc, a foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin said.

Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis fumed that German reluctance to open a new chapter in EU accession talks was linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel's "election campaign".

"That is unacceptable," the German ministry spokesman, Andreas Peschke, told reporters.

Peschke said that Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned the Turkish ambassador around midday Friday "due to remarks from Turkish officials toward Germany".

"These remarks met with great disbelief here. We will make our position abundantly clear."

Bagis reacted angrily to news from Brussels Thursday that EU member states had failed to reach the necessary consensus on opening a new negotiating chapter with Turkey, which could have marked an upswing in ties.

And he placed the blame squarely on Germany, the EU's top economy with the world's largest Turkish emigrant community.

An EU diplomat had said that Germany and the Netherlands "expressed reservations" at the closed-door talks between EU ambassadors.

"If Merkel is looking for material for her election campaign, it should not be Turkey," Bagis told reporters, referring to the general election in Germany slated for September.

Bagis said Turkey's negotiation process would not come to an end "over a politician's remarks" unless there is a unanimous decision to block Turkey's accession.

Turkey's membership talks officially started in 2005 but so far only one out of 35 chapters has been closed, mainly due to disagreements over Cyprus, which joined the bloc in 2004, as well as serious German and French doubts about the bid.

The dispute comes amid mounting tensions over Turkey's violent crackdown on protests in major cities.

Merkel said Monday that she was shocked by the response, calling it "much too harsh".

Peschke said there was "no direct link" between Ankara's handling of the demonstrations and the EU negotiations because the chapter in question dealt with "technical issues", but he confirmed that Germany "and other countries" had expressed reservations on Thursday.

And he noted that "of course accession negotiations take place in a political context".

In February Merkel indicated she backed the opening of the new chapter, while warning that she was "sceptical" about the outcome of the negotiations.

Her deputy spokesman Georg Streiter insisted Friday that neither Merkel nor her government "is questioning the accession process".

"This is not about whether but rather how to move forward with the accession process," he said.

He added that the EU wanted to continue working together with Turkey "also in the area of human rights".

However the leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats' parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, said Friday that the crackdown could have serious consequences for Turkey's EU ambitions.

"I can only warn (Ankara) against sending in the military" against protesters," he told the daily Die Welt in an interview to be published Saturday.

"That would push Turkey light years away from Europe. Then the EU would have to suspend accession negotiations."

The Turkish government threatened this week to send in troops if the demonstrations continued.

© 2013 AFP

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