Merkel Stands by ‘No’ to Turkish EU Membership

BERLIN (DPA)–Germany’s designated chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday stood firm on her "no" to Turkish European Union membership but accepted an invitation to visit Turkey during talks with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Following the meeting–Merkel said that despite differences of opinion she wanted "good and intense cooperation" with Turkey.

Ankara regards Merkel’s opposition to Turkish EU membership as a top foreign policy priority. Negotiations for Turkish EU membership began last month.

Most members of Merkel’s Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) want to offer Ankara a so-called "privileged partnership" which Turkish leaders angrily reject as second-class membership. In contrast–outgoing Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been a staunch backer of Ankara’s entry to the 25 nation bloc.

Gul–speaking at a private conference in Berlin–said Turkish EU membership would mark the final phase of his country’s centuries-long modernization. "Turkey’s EU membership will leave little or no reason to suspect a divide between East and West on cultural terms," said Gul. Joining the EU would fuel interest in Turkish reforms throughout the Muslim world–he said–adding: "The Turkish experience promises to make a positive impact much beyond our own borders."

Gul said he was confident that Merkel would change her view of Turkey’s EU bid in the coming years.

Merkel’s grand coalition government–which is due to be formally elected by parliament on Tuesday–is comprised of her CDU/CSU and the SPD.

Bridging the differences between Merkel and the SPD over Turkey–the coalition pact signed in Berlin on Friday essentially fudges the issue by saying negotiations are totally open-ended in terms of final results.

"If the EU is not capable (of taking in Turkey) or if Turkey is not in a position to fully uphold all obligations linked to membership then Turkey must be bound as close as possible to European structures through further developing its privileged partnership to the EU," says the German government accord.

In any case–the question of Turkey’s admission to the EU will not overly burden the Merkel government given that talks between Ankara and Brussels are expected to last another 15 years.

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