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22nd May 2022

German coalition keeps cautious Turkey line

  • Angela Merkel's coalition does not rule out a 'privileged partnership' if EU-Turkey negotiations fail (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Germany's new conservative-liberal coalition has decided to support 'open-ended' EU-Turkey negotiations and favour a 'privileged partnership' in case they fail, it emerged on Wednesday.

The deal is a compromise between calls to reject Ankara's EU bid, coming from chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian sister party (CSU) and the Turkey-favourable stance of her liberal junior partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

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Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who won the elections last month, 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.

Liberal leader Guido Westerwelle, who is likely to become the next foreign minister, tried to exclude the Turkey-question from the week-long coalition negotiations.

But Bavaria's Christian Social Union called for a formal rejection of the Turkish application.

"The coalition protocol must clearly state that there is no support for Turkey's full membership,"

Alexander Dobrindt, CSU secretary general said, adding that he favours a so-called privileged partnership, meaning a simple free trade area with Turkey, but no voting rights or closer integration within the Union.

Both Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the FDP pointed out that Germany already agreed together with the other member states to open accession negotiations with Turkey in 2005.

Back then, Germany managed to introduce the phrase "open-ended negotiations", something the current coalition agreed to back.

Ms Merkel was a strong supporter of the 'privileged partnership' before becoming chancellor. She now maintains that Turkey must fulfil accession criteria and also that the EU has to honour its commitments. But if negotiations were to fail, the coalition agreement is likely to say that Turkey could be offered a 'privileged partnership.'

The wording of the coalition agreement is very similar to the one Ms Merkel negotiated with her former government partner, the Social Democratic Party.

"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.

On Wednesday, the EU commission published several progress reports on the countries next in line for accession, including Turkey.

It criticised the lack of progress in several areas, including human rights and press freedom. But Ankara was praised for reaching a deal with Armenia on re-establishing diplomatic ties after more than a decade of frozen relations.

The EU has opened just 11 of the 35 negotiation chapters that candidate countries must complete, with only one just provisionally closed. Eight others have been frozen since 2006 over Ankara's non-recognition of EU member Cyprus.

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