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27th Nov 2022

Germany soothes Turkish tension on EU talks

German chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated progress can be made on Ankara's troubled bid for EU membership by July, following strong criticism on the state of talks by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Under the German presidency of the EU, two more chapters could probably be opened if things go well," Mrs Merkel said during a joint press conference in Hanover on Sunday (15 April).

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  • Turkey's relations with the EU have been fraught over the past months (Photo: REGIERUNGonline)

"There is no question that Turkey and Europe have to move closer together," she added, noting that the negotiation process will be "long" and its result is "open."

Her words came after Mr Erdogan told German's leading weekly, Der Spiegel, that Berlin was not doing enough for Turkey's EU aspirations.

"Seriously, I expected more from Germany. We would like a clear idea of a date, a roadmap, a calendar for negotiations," he said in the magazine.

He also said Germany made a "big mistake" by not inviting Turkey to celebrate the bloc's 50th anniversary, held late last month in Berlin.

Defending his comments as "legitimate" after they were published, Mr Erdogan did take a conciliatory approach when meeting the chancellor on Sunday, saying the comments were not directed at her personally.

"One cannot attack a lady. We are on a long, narrow road and we have to be patient," said the Turkish prime minister.

During a speech later at the Hanover trade fair, Mrs Merkel confirmed her commitment to working together with Ankara.

"If we look at how we openly discuss critical questions between our countries, then I can only say that we have chosen the right way, not only in regards to the economy," AP quotes her as saying.

The exchange of words between the two sides comes after a turbulent time in the bloc's relations with Turkey.

Membership negotiations - on enterprise and industry issues - were reopened last month after a decision in December to suspend negotiations in eight areas because of Ankara's refusal to respect customs obligations toward EU member state Cyprus.

Ankara has said it will not open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic until the EU makes good on a pledge to end the economic isolation of the northern part of Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey.

For her part, before she became chancellor, Mrs Merkel opposed full membership of the EU for Turkey, promoting instead the idea of a privileged partnership. But her coalition partners in government, the social democrats, favour Ankara's EU bid.

The prospect of membership for the mainly Islamic and poor country continues to cause controversy in other countries too.

"We need to ask ourselves the question whether becoming a full member of the EU is the only way to have good cooperation with the bloc," Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer told Reuters this weekend.

Mr Gusenbauer also questioned the human rights situation in the country, adding "My opinion is Turkey is currently not ready for the EU and the EU is not ready for Turkey."

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