Germany Blocks Restart of Turkey Talks on Joining EU

Germany stood in the way of reviving Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, protesting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissenters, two EU officials said.

Germany opposed the renewed embrace of Turkey at a meeting of representatives of the bloc’s 27 governments in Brussels today, said the officials who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly. The Dutch representative abstained, and the other 25 countries were in favor. Progress required unanimity.

Turkey’s chief liaison to the EU accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for re-election in September, of playing politics and warned that she will meet the same fate as Nicolas Sarkozy, an opponent of Turkish membership who failed last year to win a second term as French president.

“If Mrs. Merkel examines what happened to Sarkozy who followed a similar line, it will be obvious that messing with Turkey would not bring good,” Egemen Bagis, the Turkish EU negotiator, told reporters in televised remarks in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. “Those who are criticizing practices in Turkey should take a close look at incidents in their own countries.”

Even with a resumption of the entry talks after a three-year hiatus, Turkey would be a long way from getting in. Since starting down the EU path in October 2005, Turkey has opened talks in 13 of 35 EU policy areas and completed one. Croatia, which began its bid on the same day as Turkey, will join the EU next month.

Technical Questions

The German view prevailed over others, like EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule of the Czech Republic, who have argued that moving Turkey further toward membership would bind the country into an enduring process of democratic reforms. Germany has technical questions about proceeding with Turkey, a Foreign Ministry official said in Berlin today, asking not to be named in line with policy.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he would favor opening talks in other policy areas that would require Turkey to strengthen civil rights and media freedoms. In an interview published today with the Nuernberger Nachrichten, Westerwelle said the crackdown on protesters “sent the wrong signals, domestically and abroad -- and to Europe.”

The plan had been for Turkey to start talks on June 26 on aligning its regional policies with EU norms. National representatives may reconsider it on Monday.

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