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No ultimatum for Turkey, says Germany

jeudi 7 décembre 2006, par Honor Mahony

Source : EU Observer, 6-12-2006

Germany has given its support to a European Commission proposal to partially suspend EU membership talks with Turkey and backed down from setting Ankara an ultimatum.

Speaking after discussions with French president Jaques Chirac and Poland’s Lech Kaczynski on Tuesday (5 December), German chancellor Angela Merkel called Brussels’ proposal to suspend eight of 35 areas in Turkey’s membership talks a « good basis » for discussions.

But she backed away from an earlier call to set a firm deadline for Ankara to toe the EU line on Cyprus.

Instead she suggested that the European Commission should draw up a progress report on the state of EU negotiations with Ankara « some time between the elections in Turkey in autumn 2007 and the European elections in spring 2009. »

« We don’t want to set any kind of ultimatums, but we want ... the commission to say to us what has been achieved and how we could proceed, » she added.

Previously, Mrs Merkel had indicated she wanted to insert a review clause into an EU leaders’ statement on Turkey due next week and set mid-2008 as a deadline for Ankara to open its ports and airports to trade from Cyprus - something that would likely have caused a major dispute at the summit.

The new timeframe gives Turkey a chance to get through its presidential elections early next year and parliamentary elections in autumn.

Mrs Merkel’s softened stance came after EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn issued a statement on Monday reminded Berlin and Paris of the strategic importance of Turkey.

« I would ask Chancellor Merkel and President Chirac to look for a balanced solution which on the one hand shows the consequences of non-compliance by a candidate state but at the same time keeps the accession process with Turkey alive, because of its strategic importance for both Europe and Turkey, » he told Reuters news agency.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also lobbied the German chancellor on Tuesday, according to Turkish newspaper reports.

He told his colleagues in parliament that he had called Mrs Merkel in order to say that she and Europe should not make an « historic mistake » at the EU leaders summit at the end of next week.

« Turkey is as important for the European Union as the European Union is for Turkey, » Mr Erdogan said.

Germany’s backing down is also likely to be welcomed by countries such as the UK which has long championed Turkish membership of the EU and was already critical of the commission’s proposals last week on what to do with the country’s continued refusal to extend a customs agreement to Cyprus.

For its part, the commission in its recommendations appears to be taking a line likely to find favour with the majority of member states - tough enough to appease hardliners France, Germany and Austria but not so tough as to completely lose London and other’s support.

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