BERLIN (Reuters)–German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Wednesday Turkey’s bid to join the European Union could move forward at the bloc’s next summit if the new Turkish government showed further willingness to reform.
But he worried that shutting Muslim Turkey out of the EU could encourage the country toward Islamic fundamentalism.
"Europe has an imminent interest that the very important country of Turkey does not slide to Islamist fundamentalism," Schroeder told a news conference in Berlin after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
"We must strengthen the pro-Western forces in Turkey. And that can only happen if they are being given a perspective. The perspective is called Europe," he added.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in Turkish elections on November 3.
Erdogan–viewed with suspicion by some in Turkey for his background in political Islam–traveled to Rome on Wednesday as part of a tour of EU member states to drum up support for Turkey to be given a date for membership talks.
Schroeder did not say whether European leaders would offer a date to begin accession talks with Turkey at their Copenhagen summit in December–a long-held Turkish demand.
He said the question of whether the bloc would discuss further steps on Turkey’s bid to join the EU depended on the Turkish government showing it was willing to move ahead with reforms.
"First statemen’s have raised our hopes,” Schroeder said.
"If the government makes it very clear that reforms will continue–then we will discuss in Copenhagen if we can take it another step forward," Schroeder said.
Germany’s previous conservative-led governmen’s long resisted Turkey’s admission into the EU–but Schroeder and his Social Democrats–in power since 1998 and re-elected for another term in September–have viewed Turkey’s bid more favorably.
Turkey–the EU’s only Muslim candidate–passed a package of EU-inspired reforms in August that abolished the death penalty and lifted bans on Kurdish-language broadcasting and education.
But a recent EU progress report said Turkey’s political system still did not meet criteria for starting accession talks. The EU would like further progress on freedom of speech–assembly and religion.