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EUROPE >Berlin, Ankara trade protests in EU row

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European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış told reporters Thursday that Germany's resistance to opening a new chapter in Turkey's EU accession talks was linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel's 'election campaign.' DHA photo

European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış told reporters Thursday that Germany's resistance to opening a new chapter in Turkey's EU accession talks was linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel's 'election campaign.' DHA photo

Germany and Turkey have summoned each other’s ambassadors, in the latest tit-for-tat in Ankara’s strained ties with the European Union, following Berlin’s reluctance to move forward with Turkey’s EU bid.

The German Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish ambassador Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu on June 21 in order to complain about EU Minister Egemen Bağış’s remarks, in which he said Germany’s resistance to opening a new chapter in EU accession talks was linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “election campaign.” Ankara swiftly retaliated Berlin’s decision and hours later summoned German ambassador Eberhard Pohl to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

“That is unacceptable,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andreas Peschke, told reporters on June 21, referring to Bağış’s words. EU Minister Bağış said that if Chancellor Merkel was looking for material for her election campaign, it should not be Turkey, referring to the general election in Germany slated for September. “Those remarks met with great disbelief here. We will make our position abundantly clear,” Peschke said.

The EU was set to open talks on Chapter 22, on “regional policies,” next week, after a delay of three years. However, Germany insisted on a halt to negotiations as a response to Ankara’s recent police crackdown on Gezi protesters. Merkel said earlier this week that she was shocked by Turkey’s violent crackdown on protests in major cities, saying it had been “much too harsh.”

Peschke said there was “no direct link” between Ankara’s response to the demonstrations and the EU negotiations because the chapter in question dealt with “technical issues,” but he confirmed that Germany “and other countries” had expressed reservations on June 20. The representatives of the member states in the European Commission met June 20 to adopt a common position on whether to give a green light to Turkey, but they failed and decided to take up the issue in their next meeting on June 24.

Berlin’s decision prompted a swift response from Ankara. “We will convey our views and positions with regard to recent statements from German officials on the developments in Turkey,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

Concerns were conveyed to the German ambassador who was visiting the eastern province of Erzurum on June 21. The Turkish foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu is expected to touch on Germany’s decision to veto the opening of the chapter on regional policies during the meeting.

Merkel’s deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, has insisted that neither Merkel nor her government is “questioning the accession process.”

“This is not about whether but rather how to move forward with the accession process,” he said. He added that the EU wanted to continue working together with Turkey “also in the area of human rights.”

However, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats’ parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, said June 21 that the crackdown could have serious consequences for Turkey’s EU ambitions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives rejected Turkish membership in the European Union in their German election program last week, saying the country would “overburden” the bloc because of its size and economy.

In the meantime, the two countries’ foreign ministers will both be in Doha to attend the core group meeting of the Friends of Syria. Diplomatic sources said it was not yet sure whether a bilateral meeting would take place between Ahmet Davutoğlu and Westerwelle.

Moreover, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has written a letter to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, asking for his support to open new EU chapters. “Criticisms of the Turkish government and Turkey’s EU process should be handled separately,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wrote in the letter. The CHP leader had recently written a letter to Merkel urging her not to block the accession talks.

Bağış tones down rhetoric against Germany

Bağış expressed sadness over "misunderstanding" by German allies, as he said his statements had been based on his “sincerity” and were aiming at “channeling the immovable cooperation between Turkey and Germany to the EU process.”

Berlin’s efforts to block the opening of a new chapter in Ankara’s EU membership talks next week led to “disappointment,” Bağış said in a written statement.

“We assume voicing our disappointment to be a requirement of our sincerity,” he said, adding that what he had been doing was reminding of the principle of “pacta sunt servanda,” which is Latin for “agreements must be kept.” This was a principle which was continually brought up by Germany on the issue of Turkey’s EU membership process, he said.

German friends had distorted his sincere warnings, Bağış said, “We would expect these [warnings] to be considered within the framework of freedom of expression and to be perceived as an emphasis of democratic mechanisms instead of a threat.”

He also made a call on Berlin to resume Turkey’s membership process together.

June/21/2013

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