ANKARA (Hurriyet)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again reiterated that Turkey will not agree to a “privileged partnership” with the European Union instead of full membership, putting him on a collision course with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pledged to bring up the proposal during her visit to Ankara next week.
“EU treaties do not accept privileged partnership. It would be a big mistake for Turkey to agree to such a proposal,” Erdogan said in an interview with the German weekly, Die Zeit. Asked how he would react if Merkel raises the issue, Erdogan said, “I won’t let her do this because she knows what we think about it.”
Merkel, who opposes Turkey’s membership in the EU, has said in recent remarks that she would offer privileged partnership to Turkish officials when she begins a visit to Turkey on Monday. In remarks to the Turkish media, she said Turkey could negotiate with the EU on 27 or 28 policy chapters, instead of 35, so as to become a privileged partner of the 27-nation bloc.
“I don’t understand the debate on whether Turkey could be an EU member or not. We are continuing negotiations with the EU for the purpose of full membership. There is no other choice,” Erdogan said. “You cannot change the rules in the middle of the game.”
In the interview, Erdogan also commented on debates in Europe about Muslim women wearing headscarves or burqas. “Nowhere in the world should people decide on what other people should or should not wear.
We need to give the people the freedom to shape their own world,” he said. When reminded that many in Europe were concerned over the growing influence of Islam on the continent, Erdogan said this was due to Islamophobia and reaffirmed that he considered Islamophobia a crime just like anti-Semitism.
Erdogan also urged Germany to allow dual citizenship. “I find it very regrettable that Germany is among the countries in the European Union that does not allow it [dual citizenship],” he told Die Zeit. “I hope that Germany will also allow it one day.”
Turks in Germany, who constitute the biggest immigrant group in the country, complain that German rules banning dual citizenship are a hurdle for their integration into German society. Turks who hold Turkish nationality are still the majority in the 2.7-million-strong Turkish community even after decades since their first arrival as migrant workers in the 1960s.
A child of foreign parents born in Germany can obtain dual citizenship if one parent has lived in the country regularly for at least eight years. But the child must choose one of the two nationalities by his 23rd birthday.
Erdogan, who has been accused by conservative German politicians of using the Turks in Germany to further his own political agenda, also called for Turkish secondary schools in Germany. “In Turkey, we have German high schools — why shouldn’t there be Turkish high schools in Germany?” he asked.
When asked whether he considered himself as the prime minister of the Turks living abroad, he said: “How can I say ‘no’? These people are citizens of Turkey, and [due to recently enacted legislation] they will vote in the elections next year.”
He also said he would be supporting the German national team — which includes Turkish players — if it makes it to the finals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.