BERLIN (Hurriyet)–Germany’s chancellor said she would offer Turkey “alternatives” instead of full European Union membership during a visit to Turkey later this month, local media reported over the weekend.
“I am of the opinion that we should rather aim for a privileged partnership, in other words a very close affiliation of Turkey to the European Union,” Angela Merkel said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio on Sunday.
Privileged partnership, which falls short of full membership, is the term coined by Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for their model of the future relations between Turkey and the EU.
In February 2004, Merkel, then opposition leader, visited Turkey to present the idea, which was vehemently rejected by the Turkish government. While Ankara called the offer “unacceptable,” the motion received support from France and Austria.
Just weeks before Germany took over the EU presidency in 2006, Merkel signaled a subtle shift in her policy toward Turkey, indicating that she supported its eventual membership in the EU. However, in 2009 she said the future of EU ties to Turkey remains an open question after U.S. President Barack Obama urged the bloc to let the country join.
Merkel’s two-day visit to Turkey will begin March 29. Besides talks on Turkey’s EU membership bid, her trip will focus on Istanbul as the 2010 European Capital of Culture and the integration of German citizens of Turkish heritage.
“My visit is intended to foster the good relationship we have with Turkey. We have a lot of Turkish fellow citizens here in Germany,” Merkel told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“On one hand, we want their integration, and on the other hand, we want intensive economic and cultural ties with Turkey. We are especially connected because Istanbul is currently the 2010 European Capital of Culture, as is Essen. This connection should be in the foreground of my visit,” she said.
Asked about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for German politicians of Turkish heritage to lobby for Turkish interests abroad rather than integrate into non-Turkish associations, Merkel said she does not believe the third and fourth generations of people with Turkish heritage would be prevented from lobbying for German interests at the same time.
“I always say this to our young Turks with a migration background, I am as much their chancellor as I am for our citizens with German heritage,” she said.
Integration, the German chancellor said, also means not forgetting one’s native country. “I regularly discuss this topic with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. It will most certainly be a topic during this visit as well,” she said.