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Merkel visits Turkey amid EU entry debate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel follows a Turkish military guard of honour at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on Monday. Photo:AP.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel follows a Turkish military guard of honour at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on Monday. Photo:AP.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Turkey on Monday for a visit that Turkish leaders were hoping to use to break her opposition to full membership in the European Union for the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

Ms. Merkel’s long—standing call for Turkey to be given a “privileged partnership” that falls short of full membership has angered Turkish leaders. She was scheduled to meet Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Abdullah Gul, who argue that the opposition of Germany and France to full membership of the country violates the principle of equality for the candidate countries.

The Turkish media on Monday widely reported Mr. Erdogan’s recently renewed suggestion that Turkish—language schools should be set up in Germany as another friction point between the two countries. In 2008, a similar proposal by Mr. Erdogan received a cool response from Ms. Merkel, who said Turkish immigrants must come to terms with Germany’s way of life. She criticized an assertion by Mr. Erdogan that assimilation is “a crime against humanity.”

Germany is home to some 2.7 million people of Turkish origin; an estimated 500,000 are German citizens. While many are fully integrated in society, others speak German poorly and tend to stay within large Turkish—speaking communities.

Ms. Merkel welcomed Mr. Erdogan’s call for integration and for immigrants to learn German but also argued that the two countries need to talk more about how they understand integration.

Before her talks in the Turkish capital on Monday, Ms. Merkel visited the mausoleum of modern and secular Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and laid a wreath at the tomb - a tradition expected of all visiting dignitaries.

Germany, despite having reservations for full membership of Turkey in the bloc, has urged Ankara to press ahead with European Union—oriented reforms, saying a Turkey closely linked to the EU was in the interests of both Germany and Europe.

Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005 but negotiations over some policy areas are frozen over Turkey’s refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace. In return, Turkey insists on the lifting of what it says is the unofficial trade embargo on the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, which was divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north following Turkey’s 1974 invasion.

The EU says Ankara must open its ports and airspace to EU—member Cyprus if it wants to make progress towards EU membership. The EU, however, has agreed to open part of accession talks with Ankara that deal with the environment. The move is seen as rewarding recent reforms including moves to improve the rights of the country’s Kurdish minority.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 3:46:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Merkel-visits-Turkey-amid-EU-entry-debate/article16627743.ece

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