BERLIN May 3 German Chancellor Angela Merkel
said on Wednesday Europe should not push Turkey away despite
worries about President Tayyip Erdogan's tightening grip on
power, seeming to play down talk that its aspirations to join
the European Union are over.
The EU's top official dealing with Ankara has told Reuters
that Turkey had disqualified itself from joining the bloc due to
Erdogan's crackdown on dissidents, his "Nazi" jibes at Germany
and a referendum that granted him sweeping new powers.
However, in an interview published in the Berliner Zeitung,
Merkel said that Turkey was "an important partner in the fight
against Islamist terror" and it was in the EU's and NATO's
interests to have good relations with Ankara.
"You should not just push away such a partner, even in view
of negative developments that we must address," she said.
Asked about EU membership talks, Merkel was more cagey,
although she reiterated that Turkey would cross a red line with
the EU if it were to reintroduce the death penalty.
"We in Europe must jointly discuss what sort of future
relationship we want with Turkey," she said.
Many in Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) are
sceptical about Turkey joining the bloc but Merkel has long
argued that it is important to talk to Ankara and no decisions
on actual membership are close.
She also rejected calls from some conservative allies to
tighten up the rules on dual citizenship, which affect many of
the 3 million people with Turkish roots living in Germany, an
issue in the run-up to a Sept. 24 parliamentary election.
"Dual citizenship will not be an election campaign issue
like it was in 1999," Merkel told the Koelner Stadt Anzieger in
an interview, referring to a debate before Germany changed the
rules in 2000 which made it easier to get dual citizenship.
Merkel's government has for the last decade talked about the
need for greater integration of Germany Turkish community. The
arrival of more than 1 million migrants in the last two years
had intensified the debate.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Louise Ireland)