Kohl Aide Doubts Turkey’s Readiness for EU

BERLIN (Reuters)–Germany once more underlined its opposition to Turkey joining the European Union on Friday–prompting a warning from US envoy Richard Holbrooke that it was complicating regional peace efforts.

Wolfgang Schaeuble–the powerful parliamentary leader of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats–told a conference on German-American ties that integrating Turkey would be too much for the EU.

"I wonder whether the only way to fully integrate Turkey is for it to become a member of the EU," he said. "I get a stomach ache when I think we need to digest all that."

Holbrooke–the United States’ special presidential envoy on Cyprus–told the same conference that by rejecting Turkey’s EU membership bid at a summit last December–EU leaders had created a potentially volatile situation.

"I must say with all candor that the decision on December 13 in Luxembourg severely complicated the search for stability and peace in the eastern Aegean," Holbrooke said. "I have to say that with the greatest of regret."

Holbrooke said the EU had included "gratuitously insulting language to the Turks" in its final communiqu and that this had undermined his and other diplomats’ work in the region.

Holbrooke is charged with trying to forge peace in Cyprus–divided between the Greek community in the southern half of the island and the Turks in the north.

The northern government is recognized only by Turkey–whose troops invaded in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup–and this divided status threatens to hinder Cyprus’s own application to join the EU.

In turning down Turkey–the EU leaders cited human rights concerns–a bloody conflict with the Kurdish minority and the dispute over Cyprus.

Turkey has reacted furiously and accused Germany–home to two million Turks and fearful of large-scale immigration–of discriminating against it for cultural reasons.

"We have great sympathy for your domestic dilemma," Holbrooke told his German audience.

But he added: "I urge you to try harder to take into account these external factors because if not–I assure you–the situation in the Aegean will escalate. We cannot rule out the danger of a military incident by miscalculation."

Schaeuble–named by Kohl as his preferred eventual successor–said he believed Turkey played a vital role in NATO but that the EU should consider creating special "new structures" to bring it into the European fold.

He added that he supported the idea of examining a similar relationship between the EU and Russia.

Last week Turkey pointedly stayed away from an EU conference in London intended to provide a joint forum for the 15 EU states and all the candidate members.

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