The World from Berlin: Talking Tough with Turkey

Turkish accession talks seem to be going nowhere in a hurry. Now, ahead of its European Union presidency, Germany is trying to send a strong message without completely derailing the talks.

The German Chancellery in Berlin is doing its best to talk tough with Turkey, without derailing the country's chances of eventually joining the EU.
AP

The German Chancellery in Berlin is doing its best to talk tough with Turkey, without derailing the country's chances of eventually joining the EU.

The small, divided island of Cyprus continues to plague Turkey's accession talks with the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey again on Tuesday to open its ports to trade from the island nation, so accession talks with Turkey could continue. Turkey has demanded that the EU lift its embargo on the Turkish controlled part of the island in return.

Previously, Merkel favored strict measures to pressure Turkey on the Cyprus issue. Now, she seems more inclined towards the European Commission proposal, which entails putting only certain parts -- known as chapters -- of the membership talks on hold. "We don't want to send any kind of ultimatum," Merkel said yesterday at a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac and Polish President Kaczynski.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had urged the European leaders prior to Tuesday's summit not to make the "historic mistake" of pushing Turkey away.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes on Wednesday that the EU simply can not continue to accept Turkey's failure to live up to accession conditions and continue talks as if nothing were wrong:

"Between Turkey and Europe tension is growing so much that simple assumptions over the other's intentions provoke uproar. In Ankara, President Erdogan is flexing his muscles. And in Brussels, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn is fuming about Angela Merkel's supposed plans to set a deadline for Turkey....

"Under normal conditions (such a deadline) would go without saying. After all, Turkey has been breaking its agreement for more than year.... The atmosphere is indeed so heated that even this obvious fact is being turned into a political issue."

The daily tabloid Bild says Turkey has a place in the EU, but only after it makes some critical reforms:

"Turkey is not part of Europe. Nevertheless, the bridge-country between the Asian continent should become a member of the European Union one day."

"Of course, Turkey still must change many things before it can join the EU. The most important is religious freedom, which is only guaranteed on paper. But, relations with the Kurds, human rights and the total equality of genders are almost just as important."

"Many fear that Turkey will bring a despotic Islam to the West. Turkish politicians, however, talk of a cultural alliance, not of opposition. That is the right way to go in the future."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung takes a look at the threat to block some of the accession chapters.

"Was this an ultimatum to Turkey or rather a step back form the heat of Turkey's upcoming elections? Now, after the chancellor's discussion with the presidents of France and Poland, talk is no longer of an ultimatum, rather of a new progress report that will be prepared for 2009. What will it say? That Ankara has recognized EU-member Cyprus and continues on its reform course? The first part seems unlikely."

"But it's true: The entire "accession process" is in complete crisis after one year. It's a crisis which exposes the fault lines within the EU. Those that see in Turkey's accession a (strategic) enrichment of the Union, consider the crisis an exaggeration created by those who oppose Turkey."

"Even when the accession process advances, it remains a bleak affair of reproaches and bitterness. A transformation is afoot, exhibited by Chirac. Not long ago, he seemed to be rolling out the red carpet for Ankara. Today, he keeps his distance. French voters want it that way. The Polish leadership in turn is pursuing a quid pro quo: They endorse Turkey's accession -- with the condition that the Ukraine's path into the EU somehow progresses together with Turkey's."

-- Joshua Gallu, 2:30 p.m. CET

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