German, French leaders stand united against Turkey

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy attended an event organized by the German Christian Democrats in Berlin.

May 12, 2009, Tuesday/ 16:43:00
The leaders of Germany and France, gearing up for next month’s European Parliament elections, have denounced the idea of expanding the European Union indefinitely to include new members such as Turkey.

The remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, underlining the two conservative leaders’ well-known opposition to Turkish membership, came during a meeting on Sunday. The two met in Berlin in a mutual show of support ahead of the June 7 elections. Sarkozy's visit was the first time that a French president had campaigned in Germany in the run-up to an election. Merkel is scheduled to make a reciprocal trip to Paris at the end of this month.

Speaking at a gathering organized by her conservative Christian Democrats, Merkel, who has advocated having a vaguely defined partnership with Turkey, said, “We cannot take in everyone in Europe as a full member.” “We have to talk about the borders of this Europe. It makes no sense if there are ever more members, and we can’t decide anything anymore,” she added.

Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005, despite opposition voiced in Germany and France. Neither country, however, has blocked the talks. Germany's other main coalition party, the Social Democrats, supports EU membership for Turkey. US President Barack Obama has also urged the EU to embrace Turkey as a full member.

“It is right that we say to people in the European election campaign ... our common position is: a privileged partnership for Turkey, but no full membership,” Merkel said.

French President Sarkozy, a longtime opponent of Turkish membership, last week advocated discussing a common economic and security forum with Turkey as an alternative. “When Angela Merkel says Europe must have borders, she is right -- because a Europe without borders would be a Europe without a will, without identity, without values,” he said at Sunday's event, where he was a guest of honor as France's leading conservative.

He was quoted earlier on Sunday as telling Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, “Let us stop making vain promises to Turkey and study with it the creation of a big common economic and human space.” Asked to comment on Sarkozy's proposal, Krisztina Nagy, the spokesperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, said at a press conference on Monday that the European Commission's stance on Turkey was clear and that what mattered was Turkey's fulfillment of the membership criteria.

Ankara rejects anything that falls short of full membership. On Friday, newly appointed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey was asking the EU to keep its promises because proposing alternatives to membership was “disrespectful not to us, but to European culture itself.”

“We are ready to meet our commitments, but we are expecting our European friends to act in line with the basic moral principles of Europe," Davutoğlu said in Ankara. Also on Friday,

Egemen Bağış, Turkey's chief negotiator for EU talks, said Ankara would push ahead with long-delayed reforms to join the bloc, including tax reforms and amending the Constitution now that the country has a two to three year period without elections.

“Our main and single target is to become a full member, nothing less and nothing more. We are determined about reforms,” Bağış said at a meeting with EU ambassadors in Ankara.


Turkey, EU to sign Nabucco deal next month, says report

Turkey and the European Union are to sign a key agreement next month to allow the construction of a pipeline that will transfer gas from the Caspian basin and the Middle East to Europe, a report said yesterday.

The agreement on the Nabucco project will be signed on June 25 because of a groundbreaking agreement made by Turkish and EU officials in Prague last week, British newspaper The Guardian said. The project is expected to curb the hold Moscow and its gas monopoly, Gazprom, have over the supply lines to Europe, but the plan had faltered over a deadlock between the EU and Turkey over the pipeline transit agreement. More than half the pipeline is to be located in Turkey, making it the gatekeeper of Europe's energy supplies.

Ankara insisted on collecting a "tax" on the gas being pumped and demanded 15 percent of the transit gas at discounted prices, something that the EU says rendered the project unviable. "The 15 percent demand has gone," Andris Piebalgs, the EU commissioner for energy, told The Guardian. "We've agreed on cost-based transit. We're very close to a conclusion." A senior Czech official organizing the summit likened the negotiations to "bargaining in an İstanbul souk," while an EU envoy to the region worried that "nothing is done until it's done."

But European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said Turkish President Abdullah Gül, who attended the Prague summit on energy, assured him the deal would be signed within weeks. The Guardian also reported that Gül indirectly linked any Nabucco deal with progress in Ankara's negotiations with Brussels on joining the EU. But Barroso and others insisted that Ankara was not setting conditions for a Nabucco agreement.

Speaking on Friday, Gül said there had been progress in talks with the EU regarding the Nabucco pipeline project. İstanbul Today’s Zaman

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