BERLIN (Reuters)–Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to bringing Turkey into the European Union on Friday but stressed that Ankara must improve human rights before any negotiations could begin.
"We want a European Turkey and therefore we want to open up for Turkey a credible prospect of Europe," he told parliament in a keynote speech on European policy ahead of next week’s EU summit in Helsinki.
"The government strongly supports giving Turkey the status of membership candidate for the European Union."
In particularly strong terms for the German government–however–he added that real negotiations could only get under way once Turkey had met European treaty standards on human rights and its treatment of minority groups.
"Only when the political criteria of Copenhagen and Article Six of the EU treaty are met – that means safeguarding human rights and respect and protection for minorities as well as the stable rule of law–can the question of starting actual entry negotiations be raised," Schroeder said.
"There can be no exceptions on this. Whoever wants to belong to Europe–to the European Union–must acknowledge its values."
Germany–with its two million-strong Turkish population–has made Turkey’s membership of the EU a key policy goal. Ankara’s traditional rival Greece–as well as Nordic countries concerned at human rights abuses in Turkey–have resisted negotiations.
Earlier this week–summit host Finland said more work needed to be done if Turkey were to be named a candidate for entry at the summit starting on December 10. But it remained optimistic.