Germany and Turkey remain at odds after summoning each other’s ambassadors on Friday. Turkey’s EU affairs minister has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of opposing the country’s accession for political reasons.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the envoy “due to remarks from Turkish officials toward Germany,” according to a foreign affairs spokesman. In response, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara immediately announced plans to send for the German ambassador. Turkey accuses Germany of impeding EU accession talks held in Brussels on Thursday.
EU member states failed to reach the necessary consensus on opening a new negotiating chapter with Turkey next week, which could have marked an upswing in ties.
Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis reacted angrily to news from Brussels, telling reporters after the meeting that “if Merkel is looking for material for her election campaign, it should not be Turkey.”
“These remarks were met with great disbelief here,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said. “We will make our position abundantly clear.”
Peschke said “technical reasons” had held up talks, not Turkey’s response to the unrest, adding that other countries, such as the Netherlands, shared Germany’s view.
Bagis had earlier warned that Germany would face “reactions” if Merkel did not lift her resistance, reminding the chancellor to consider “the benefit of some 4,000 German businesses in Turkey.”
By Friday, his comments had softened somewhat. “We have been disappointed by Germany’s stance of preventing the opening of this chapter to negotiations,” he said.
“We feel that our sincerity makes it necessary for us to express our disappointment. We also regret to note the intolerance and misinterpretation of our sincere reminders by our German friends, who unfairly criticize Turkey regarding the freedom of expression.”
Turkey EU talks in doubt
The EU appears as if it may postpone or cancel plans to open a new chapter in Turkey’s membership talks next Wednesday, casting doubt on the future of negotiations. Merkel’s conservatives oppose Turkish EU membership in their platform for September’s election, saying it would “overburden” the bloc because of the country’s size and economy, though the chancellor herself has stopped short of calling for a halt to accession talks.
Though several member states support opening negotiations with Turkey, Germany has criticized the government’s response to weeks of anti-government unrest following the Gezi Park protests and subsequent police violence. On Monday, Merkel had called Turkey’s response “much too harsh.”
Without directly addressing Germany, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino weighed in with a statement Friday, saying that the EU should remain open to Turkey.
“From this perspective, we must bring dynamism to the negotiating process and avoid giving into a knee-jerk reaction that hardens positions with regard to the line adopted by Turkish authorities,” Bonino said. “If we make the mistake of complicating Ankara’s road towards Europe, tomorrow we will have a Europe that is less credible on the international scene.”
mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, AP)