Merkel Seeks Momentum in EU Talks on Turkish Membership

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to give momentum to talks on Turkey’s bid to join the European Union even as she voiced skepticism on full membership and urged the country to normalize relations with Cyprus.

Speaking alongside Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Merkel floated a proposal to open another area of negotiations in Turkey-EU talks as a way forward and said more can be done once Turkey fully implements a customs-union agreement that includes Cyprus.

“We want the accession process to go on regardless of the fact that I have a certain skepticism with respect to a full membership for Turkey,” Merkel told journalists today in the Turkish capital. “I also made clear that we need progress on the Ankara Protocol, on its implementation,” Merkel said, referring to the framework of the customs union.

Merkel, who has balked at the notion of Turkey as an EU member in favor of a so-called privileged partnership, cited the need to move the talks forward. Under President Francois Hollande, France has shown more openness to the country’s membership in the 27-nation bloc.

The German leader voiced support over the weekend for opening another chapter in the membership talks. The EU has so far opened 13 of the chapters and completed only one.

Long Way

“We still have a long way to go,” Merkel said in a speech to business leaders later in Ankara.

Much depends on Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean island partitioned since a Turkish invasion in 1974. Greek-speaking Cyprus, a member of the EU as well as the euro, elected a new president yesterday as it pursues talks with international creditors on receiving the euro area’s latest bailout.

Erdogan said Turkey would push for a resolution to the Cyprus issue if a “just and lasting solution” emerges. Without committing his government, he said Turkey would consider approving the Ankara Protocol on condition of reciprocity, saying Turkish steps hadn’t been met in kind.

“We took some steps but we could not see anything in return,” the Turkish leader said at the news conference.

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