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Germany's Merkel says Turkey's EU negotiations will be 'long road'

Germany's Merkel says Turkey's EU negotiations will be 'long road'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Friday that Germany would remain committed to European Union promises made to Turkey even though her conservative party remains skeptical about the country joining the bloc.
Before she became chancellor, Merkel and her Christian Democrats had called for a "privileged partnership" for Turkey with the EU instead of full membership _ a proposal which Ankara strongly rejected.
The German government _ a coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats who favor Turkey joining the EU _ now supports membership talks.
But the proposal of offering Ankara something less than full membership would still be preferable, Merkel said, adding that negotiations with Turkey will be a "long road."
"There is no change of mind _ the position of the (Christian Democratic) Union remains that we would see a privileged partnership as a more correct result," Merkel told ARD television during her visit to Ankara.
"We always say that these negotiations are being conducted with an open result _ they are still right at the beginning, and so a long road lies ahead of us at the end of which the decision will have to be made what the result is," she said.
Several EU countries have voiced concerns over allowing Turkey to join the 25-nation bloc, and some _ including leaders in France and Austria _ have backed the "privileged partnership" idea.
There is widespread concern within Europe about admitting a predominantly Muslim country with a large population that is relatively poor and has a questionable record on human rights and democracy.
Many are also questioning the EU's readiness to expand again after it added 10 new nations in 2004 and is to see Bulgaria and Romania join next year.
Earlier this week, Olli Rehn, the EU's top official in charge of enlargement, warned that European leaders advocating a "privileged partnership" were undermining the bloc's credibility and harming reforms in Turkey by fueling resentment.
Support for the EU inside Turkey is dwindling with many Turkey angered by what they perceive as never ending stumbling blocks placed on Turkey's EU path.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on European nations to extend Turkey the same "interest and support" they gave other countries that joined recently.
Merkel arrived in Turkey on Thursday for a visit aimed at driving home the EU's demand that Ankara lift its trade embargo against Cyprus. Merkel said Turkey must open its ports and airports to the EU member, but Erdogan ruled out the possibility unless an international embargo against a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island was lifted.
The island has been split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north since a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway state in the north, and although the island joined the EU in 2004, the bloc's benefits essentially only extend to the internationally recognized south.
In a speech to a German and Turkish business forum, Merkel called for calm in the debate over Turkey's place in the EU.
"Let us not encourage those who see emotions more than facts," she said, adding that the EU would not impose new conditions on the country.
"We won't put up any new hurdles," she said.
Merkel also encouraged Turkey to continue with essential judicial and economic reforms.
"I think it has now become very clear in Turkey that this is not being done to do Europe a favor," she said. "Your growth rates would not have been possible without many of the reforms that you have implemented."
In Friday's ARD interview, Merkel reiterated that the Cyprus issue "must be overcome."
Still, she stressed that her talks in Turkey were taking place "in a very good spirit _ namely, in a spirit that we, Germany and Turkey, need each other internationally."


Updated : 2021-05-18 16:30 GMT+08:00