Wednesday

22nd May 2019

EU must embrace up-and-coming Turkey, German FM says

  • Westerwelle. The German foreign minister also made headlines this week by marrying his partner Michael Mronz (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has reiterated his support for Turkey's entry into the EU and said the Muslim-majority country is moving to the centre of the world stage.

Speaking in an interview with the Wall Street Journal out on Thursday (23 September), the leader of Germany's liberal Free Democratic Party said: "Nobody should rashly snub Turkey by slamming the door in its face after all its efforts."

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He warned that EU-Turkey talks could unravel unless further progress is made quickly: "Now we must act wisely and early enough so that we don't arrive at a dead end by the end of this year."

The EU in June opened talks with Turkey on common food safety and veterinary health standards. The move brought to 13 out of 35 the number of accession chapters opened by the EU in the five and a half years since Turkey became an EU candidate.

Eight chapters are frozen due to its territorial dispute with Cyprus. Meanwhile, the FDP's own coalition partner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party, as well as Austria and France, continue to say it should become a "privileged partner" instead of a fully-fledged EU member.

"It sometimes amazes me how self-assuredly countries that are influential today assume that things will always be that way ... It's only a question of time before these young, dynamic societies [such as Turkey] are also among the political, cultural and intellectual centers of the world," Mr Westerwelle said.

The German minister's remarks were echoed by Turkish deputy prime minister Ali Babacan.

"The weight of the European economy in the world has shrunk and will continue to shrink and only with enlargement the EU will be able to protect its power and influence," Mr Babacan said at the Foreign Policy Association's World Leadership Forum in New York on Wednesday, according to AFP.

"When Turkey becomes a member of the EU, Turkey is not going to be in a secondary position and that's one of the reasons why countries like Germany and France are quite nervous about our membership," he added.

Voting power in the EU Council is calculated on the basis of population. With 77 million people already and with birth rates far higher than those in Western Europe, Turkey would be on a path to become the most powerful single EU country shortly after 2020.

The Turkish mission to the EU in Brussels is planning by the end of the year to leave its joint premises with the Turkish embassy and consulate to Belgium and to open up shop in a separate building near the US embassy.

"You can take this as a sign of our faith in the enlargement process," the Turkish ambassador to the EU, Selim Kuneralp, told this website.

Mr Westerwelle in the Wall Street Journal and the European Commission earlier welcomed the 12 September referendum result in Turkey, which allowed civilian courts for the first time to try military personnel for crimes against the state.

Some EU diplomats are not sure the move is a step in the right direction, however.

"You cannot say it openly and it is a paradox. But while the EU is bound to publicly support the reduction of military influence on the political scene in any third country, in the case of Turkey the army is a guardian of secularism and normal democratic development," an EU diplomatic contact said.

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