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Erdogan struggles with Merkel’s doubt on EU bid

Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gather in the event venue Tempodrom in Berlin, where Erdogan will address Turks living in Germany during an election campaign of his Justice and Development Party, AKP, in Berlin, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)

BERLIN: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Angela Merkel to throw Germany’s full weight behind his country’s bid to join the European Union but there was no sign the chancellor had been swayed from her skeptical stance on Turkish membership.

In a visit to Berlin overshadowed by EU concerns about his crackdown on the judiciary and police whom he accuses of forming part of a “parallel state,” Erdogan complained that German support was “not currently adequate.”

“We want to see more. I would like to remind you that the population of Turks in Germany alone is greater than the population of many European countries,” he told the German Council on Foreign Relations before meeting Merkel.

Erdogan has purged thousands of police and sought tighter control of the courts since a corruption inquiry burst into the open in December, a scandal he has cast as an attempted “judicial coup” meant to undermine him ahead of elections.

In combination with his heavy-handed tactics against last year’s protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Erdogan’s response has reinforced the view in Berlin and Brussels that Turkey’s fragile democracy may not yet be ready for EU membership.

“I personally said that we are in a negotiation process that has certain outcome and no fixed time frame,” Merkel told a news conference after their talks.

“It is no secret and nothing has changed in my view that I am skeptical about full membership for Turkey,” Merkel said, adding that this should not prevent the talks from going ahead.

Ankara began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France, have slowed progress.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Erdogan last week that respect for the rule of law and an independency judiciary were preconditions for EU membership.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 05, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

In a visit to Berlin overshadowed by EU concerns about his crackdown on the judiciary and police whom he accuses of forming part of a "parallel state," Erdogan complained that German support was "not currently adequate".

Erdogan has purged thousands of police and sought tighter control of the courts since a corruption inquiry burst into the open in December, a scandal he has cast as an attempted "judicial coup" meant to undermine him ahead of elections.

In combination with his heavy-handed tactics against last year's protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square, Erdogan's response has reinforced the view in Berlin and Brussels that Turkey's fragile democracy may not yet be ready for EU membership.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Erdogan last week that respect for the rule of law and an independency judiciary were preconditions for EU membership.


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