Merkel tells Turkey democratic values 'non-negotiable' for EU
German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a speech at the Bundestag (lower house of Parliament) on June 27 in Berlin. AFP Photo
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned yesterday that democratic values were non-negotiable in light of the crackdown on Gezi protesters, as she welcomed an agreement to reopen talks with Turkey about joining the European Union.
The European side “did not pretend that nothing had happened” in its recent talks with Turkey, she said, referring to the tough response by Turkish government against Gezi protesters.
The outcome of the EU talks with Ankara “makes clear that Turkey is an important partner,” she told Parliament. “But our European values, the freedom to demonstrate, the freedom of speech, the rule of law, the freedom of religion, they always apply. They are non-negotiable for us.”
The European Union agreed this week to open a new chapter with Turkey but postponed negotiations until after the presentation of the annual progress report in October. Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said EU ministers agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey after a three-year break, but that a date to kick off the negotiations would not be announced until the fall.
Merkel said she was “shocked” last week, adding that “what is happening in Turkey at the moment does not mesh with our ideas of freedom of assembly.”
Germany’s Foreign Ministry also summoned the Turkish ambassador to explain Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış’s accusations that Merkel was exploiting Turkey for domestic political gain ahead of the September elections. Bağış had said that if Merkel is looking for “internal political material” then “it should not be Turkey.”
In response to Germany’s response to these comments, Turkey summoned the German ambassador.
Merkel’s conservative party has again reiterated its long-standing opposition to Turkey joining the European Union in its election program this week.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in its program for the Sept. 22 elections, stressed it wanted deeper ties because of the “strategic and economic importance of Turkey for Europe as well as the varied people-to-people relations.” But it reiterated that “we reject full membership because [Turkey] does not meet the conditions for joining the EU. Also, given the size of the country and its economic structure, the European Union would be overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu thanked his Irish counterpart Eamon Gilmore for his cooperation on the opening of Chapter 22 in a telephone conversation. Ireland is the current holder of the rotating EU presidency.