Germany’s lukewarm attitude to Turkish membership of the European Union is likely to be reinforced after the election victory of Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, and the liberal Free Democrats, EU diplomats said on Monday.
They said continuity was expected in most areas of German foreign policy, with a renewed emphasis on good relations with Russia and a cautious approach to Germany’s military contribution to Nato’s war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
However, the Turkish question was one area that might see shades of difference emerging after the defeat of the Social Democrats on Sunday and their replacement in government by the FDP.
Turkey has been an official candidate for EU accession since 2005, but the CDU opposes Turkish entry and Ms Merkel has spoken in favour of a “privileged partnership” that would stop short of full membership.
During Ms Merkel’s chancellorship, the CDU’s scepticism about Turkey was tempered by the more positive approach of the SPD. The FDP’s views are closer to those of the CDU in that, while the party does not rule out Turkish membership, it contends that Turkey at present falls well short of meeting the entry requirements.
Turkey’s EU accession talks are making glacial progress, with negotiators having closed only one of the 35 chapters, or policy areas, that must be completed before a country can join the 27-nation bloc.
EU governments suspended talks on eight chapters in 2006 because of Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from the Greek Cypriot-controlled government of Cyprus.
Diplomats predicted that, in spite of her doubts about Turkey’s EU bid, Ms Merkel would seek to avoid a total breakdown of the membership talks when the EU reviews Turkey’s stance on Cyprus, probably in December.
Negotiations between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus dispute are entering a delicate phase, and Ms Merkel, like other EU leaders, is keen to see the talks succeed.
On economic policy, the new German government is expected to stress to its EU partners the need to restore fiscal discipline as promptly as possible after the emergency deficit-spending measures and increase in public debt adopted to combat the financial crisis and recession.
This emphasis will contrast with the views of the British government, which believes economic recovery is too fragile to justify a swift withdrawal of the fiscal measures, and to a lesser extent with the opinions of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president.
Mr Sarkozy argues that the measures should not be removed as long as unemployment is on a rising curve.
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