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Westerwelle urges Turkey to pursue EU reforms

AFP · 7 Jan 2010, 17:20

Published: 07 Jan 2010 17:20 GMT+01:00

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Westerwelle, on a two-day trip to Turkey, dismissed fears that Chancellor Angela Merkel's new centre-right government was throwing up hurdles for Turkey.

"Some have asked whether the new German government wants to close the door to (EU) membership for Turkey," he told a conference of Turkish ambassadors. "I will tell you quite clearly: what the EU and Turkey have agreed stands. And that applies to this German government too. I am committed to that."

Merkel's conservative Christian Union would prefer to see Turkey granted a "privileged partnership" with the EU while Westerwelle's pro-business Free Democrats are seen as more open to Ankara's ambitions.

Westerwelle, who is also vice-chancellor, quoted from the October coalition pact in which Berlin pledges its support for "open-outcome" accession talks with Turkey.

Asked later at a press conference with his counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu whether his statements meant Merkel had dropped her opposition to Turkey eventually joining the EU, Westerwelle said he spoke for Berlin.

"I am not here as a tourist in shorts - I am the German foreign minister and what I say counts," he said with a smile. "We are reliable partners. That is why Germany has such a good reputation in the world."

He noted that Turkey had as yet failed to meet key EU criteria such as opening its borders to member country Cyprus but also called on Nicosia to contribute to a solution, and praised Ankara for its democratic reforms.

"I encourage you to press on," particularly in the areas of freedom of religion, expression and the press and its treatment of the Kurdish minority.

Westerwelle hailed Ankara's "key role" in trouble spots such as Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan and efforts to heal long-standing rifts with neighbours such as Armenia.

Davutoglu said Ankara hoped to deepen trade, security and political ties with Europe's biggest economy.

"And we of course plan to implement all the necessary EU reforms," he said.

The glacial progression of EU accession talks has been a major source of frustration for Ankara.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the north in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Ankara has since 2004 refused to open its frontiers and ports to Cyprus under an EU-Turkish accord.

Since it began EU accession talks in 2005, Turkey has managed to open 12 of the 35 so-called chapters and successfully negotiate and close just one.

Story continues below…

On top of its row with Cyprus, there is a bigger, more fundamental issue, raised by EU powerhouses France and Germany and others: whether such a large, mainly Muslim country on the borders of Asia has a place in Europe.

Germany has the largest ethnic Turkish population outside Turkey with a community of nearly three million people. In 2008, bilateral trade volume reached nearly €25 billion ($36 billion).

Westerwelle was also to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other government ministers on trade ties, Iran's nuclear programme, the stability of Afghanistan and the threat posed by Al-Qaida in Yemen. President Abdullah Gul cancelled planned talks due to illness.

After meeting with Kurdish politicians, Westerwelle was to travel to Istanbul before continuing on to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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Your comments about this article

17:37 January 7, 2010 by trek11000
I'm surprised Turkey's reps didn't say "gleichfalls" when told that they should follow EU guidelines.
17:53 January 7, 2010 by Henckel
Guido can't resist flashing his smile even in Ankara!!!
18:09 January 7, 2010 by Edin
Couple of things here....

1. With ever growing islamophobia, France and Austria (mostly because of it) strongly opposing the Turkish membership, there is really no way for Turkey to get into EU, even with accomplishing all of the reforms.

2. Germany has to play on the safe side because of so many of its own citizens now, which originate from Turkey.

3. Turkey has a full right on the Cyprus issue, where Greeks are being the cheeky bastards. They are the EU country with most debt (over 300 bil), and all they do is cause problems, with Cyprus and now with Macedonia, not giving them the right to name their own country.... I mean, really, who needs Greeks?

4. This is now a reformist government in Turkey, but also moderately islamic, following the secular constitution. Should EU really push them away, they could cause a shift in the policy towards the other side... and then well... we'll see... because it is bound to happen.

Why do these jurnalists give no any deeper analysis?
00:02 January 8, 2010 by Dizz
"I am not here as a tourist in shorts - I am the German foreign minister and what I say counts." And I'm weally, weally important so pwease take me sewiously!

03:54 January 8, 2010 by sc123
The turks aren't european, they are Middle eastern and yet european

@Dizz LOL:0
13:56 January 8, 2010 by LancashireLad
So how is Turkey intending to handle this?

Officially it sits in both Europe and Asia. Will that mean part of Turkey is in the EU (EUROPEAN Union) with the greater part remaining in Asia and outside the EU?

Or are we going to have to rename the EU?

"I am the German foreign minister and what I say counts"

Now there's a world class statesman. Did he stamp his foot, too? I had my doubts about him as foreign minister - and he's just confirmed them.
16:27 January 8, 2010 by tlwinslow
You can call it Islamophobia, or being smart and knowing history, but the core values of Islam are at total war with those of the West despite the latter being in a post-Christian era, and admitting Turkey to the EU will likely spell disaster for Europe, especially since the so-called fundamentalist radical anti-West Islamic movement is gaining every day there. From day one the Quran called for all true believers to spread the territory ruled by Islam and its horrible Sharia by force, killing and enslaving all who resist, forcing those who won't convert to pay a yearly punishment tax under threat of death, and its original war on the West gave it hell for over a thousand years until it was defeated militarily in Vienna in 1683, after which the Muslim world was left behind as the West skyrocketed ahead in every category of civilization. So sure Turkey would like to have Europe forget all that so it can join the EU, and its attempts at secularization are admirable, but until the new radical movement is destroyed or rendered impotent, joining the EU sounds like famous last words.

Anybody can study Islam's history free online with the Historyscoper and learn all the key facts to arm their mind with knowledge at http://go.to/islamhistory
00:54 January 9, 2010 by surj
The day Turkey joins EU ,then with in few decades the down fall of European civilization will start. Have the Europeans forgotten how the muslims conquered Byzantine Empire,? how the downfall of Christianity came about under Islam in Middle East? Very good book to read By Bat Ye'or " The Decline Of Eastern Christianity Under Islam" worth reading. We still have naive Europeans who think Islam means "peace" see www.barenakedislam.wordpress.com www.thereligionofpeace.com www.faithfreedom.org Be weary of Turkey and Islam
01:30 February 8, 2010 by jazzIIIlove
Well, well...Unlike other countries ruled by Islam, Turkey is the only country under secularism, yet, the population is 80-90% muslim.

It's very obvious that EU won't be accepting a secular Turkey, so Turkey will just be pushed some of his neighbors as Iran. I mean it won't be very good idea for a neighboring country of EU to act with Iran with its current nuclear program and note that the onyl secular country with Islamic origin in the world is Turkey.

I really cannot understand why EU is totally against Turkey. Right now, the global crisis is not affecting Turkey unlike EU. So, it could be a win-win situation, yet, dogmatic ideas of both sides won't be letting it.
19:59 March 1, 2010 by Cyprus Tax
I am not a muslim but haved lived among muslims for quite some time and I feel I have to comment: If you go about and think of it, christianity went through some rough times aswell. I heard comments dating back to 1600s, I think if we look back at the european 1600s we could find some problems there aswell.

cyprus tax
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