German Elections Signal End to Turkey’s EU Hopes

BERLIN (Telegraph)—Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union have received a blow after Germany gave warning that it was ready to join France and Italy in outright opposition to Turkish membership.

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrats (FDP) are both hostile to the accession of the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 71 million.

The CDU is against the Turks joining for cultural reasons while the FDP leader, and probable new foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle has said the country’s economy is too far below European standards to integrate comfortably with other members. With almost three million ethnic Turks living in Germany, many as citizens, Germany also fears there would be a flood of immigrants after Turkish accession.

Chancellor Angela Merkell has warned her Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Germany foreign policy was under review. An EU meeting to review the Turkish role in the unification of Cyprus in December will represent the first test of the policy.

The Turkish reaction to the German election result has been open dismay. The country’s liberal broadsheet Milliyet summed up the mood in Ankara’s political circles. It said: “Turkey is the loser”.

The mass-market Aksam told Turks to be braced for a change in approach from Europe’s biggest country. It said: “We should expect Merkel to sharpen her opposition to Turkey’s membership.”

The German chancellor shifted the country’s stance at the outset of her first government in 2005 to a more skeptical position and has said she would prefer if Turkey was offered a “privileged position” not membership. But the Social Democrats, her previous coalition partners, blocked any move to join the other big continental powers in rejecting Turkey.

Turkey applied to join the forerunner of the EU as early as 1958 but bureaucratic hurdles have always kept it out.

Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, has already moved to torpedo Turkish accession to the bloc by stopping ratification efforts in five key areas.

Brussels has imposed penalties on Turkey over its ban on flights and ships originating in the Greek-controlled part of Cyprus. Turkey’s military still has up to 40,000 personnel in Cyprus, more than 30 years after it sent an expeditionary force to protect the Turkish population of the island. Cyprus became an EU member at the end of 2007 just after a reunification agreement collapsed and Brussels has since been embroiled in torturous negotiations to resolve the divide.

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