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22nd Feb 2020

Turkey can never be European, German politician says

Turkey should never join the EU because it lies mostly outside Europe geographically and accession talks should not start on 3 October unless Ankara first recognises the sovereignty of Cyprus, according to the vice president of Germany's CDU/CSU party, Wolfgang Schauble.

Mr Schauble made the remarks in the Polish daily, Rzeczpospolita, on Monday (25 July) following Germany's decision last week to push for elections on 18 September, which are widely expected to sweep the centre-right CDU/CSU group into power.

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  • Europe ends at the Bosphorus, Schauble believes (Photo: European Commission)

"The EU should not extend beyond the boundary that we call the European continent. Otherwise people will stop identifying with it. And if so, Turkey, the vast part of which lies outside Europe, cannot belong to the union", he said.

Mr Schauble explained that the 3 October membership talks could go ahead with Ankara as planned, "if by this time Turkey formally recognises the sovereignty of our European partner Cyprus".

But he added that Ankara should be made aware the negotiations are open-ended and could lead to a privileged partnership status rather than full membership.

The vice president in charge of foreign affairs and justice brushed aside worries that blocking Turkish entry might send a hostile message to the Islamic world and annoy Washington, which has pressed for Turkish accession in recent years.

Mr Schauble indicated that Ankara's NATO membership and the fact that 20 million muslims live in the EU "Is proof that we, christians and muslims, can live together sharing the same fundamental values".

"The US will agree that it is us, the Europeans, who know best which institutional form to give to our relations with Turkey", he added.

Ukraine accession a matter of time

Mr Schauble also warned that while Ukraine lies within the EU's proper geographical sphere, Kiev's membership should be kept off the agenda for now in case people lose faith in the European project altogether.

"People must be convinced that somebody is in charge of enlargement. Otherwise everything will fall apart", he stated.

But the German parliamentarian denied that the CDU/CSU party is against enlargement per se.

"Unlike Turkey, Ukrainian accession is a matter of time, not principles", he argued. "Much remains to be done in order to integrate Romania and Bulgaria. And the great problem of western Balkan membership must be solved", Mr Schauble pointed out.

Rzeczpospolita says that the UK, Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic and most Scandinavian countries favour a more robust enlargement policy than Germany, but it is unlikely that the EU will sign an association agreement with Ukraine or start negotiation talks with Croatia in the short term.

A senior Polish diplomat told the paper that Warsaw will focus on "less spectacular goals" in Ukraine instead, such as shepherding the country's WTO bid, creating an EU-Ukraine free trade zone, easing visa requirements for Ukrainian visitors and helping Kiev to modernise its Soviet-style state administration.

Public opinion lukewarm

The latest Eurobarometer study showed that 52 percent of EU citizens would like to keep Turkey out of the EU with just 35 percent in favour of full accession.

A narrow majority of Europeans would like to see Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Macedonia join the club, but have reservations about Albania, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina coming in for now.

But in Germany, 74 percent would like to keep Turkey out, 59-66 percent would happily block Bulgaria and Romania's membership and over 60 percent would be keen to shut the door to the rest of the western Balkans, with the exception of Croatia which scored just 51 percent against.

The Eurobarometer report did not ask about Ukraine.

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