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Schröder supports Turkey's bid for EU membership

Chancellor Schröder supports Turkey's bid for EU membership

Speaking in Berlin on September 2, after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said Turkey's expectations with regard to future membership in the European Union must not be disappointed, emphasizing that this is also in Germany's national interest. He remarked that the negative attitude being expressed by the CDU and CSU opposition parties towards Turkey joining the EU is nothing but "cheap politics" aimed at securing votes among the more conservative elements of the electorate and is having a damaging effect on German-Turkish relations. Schröder noted that a statement of support for Turkish membership in the European Union is consistent with positions taken by past German governments as well as by the EU. He reminded journalists that the prospect of future membership has been held out ever since the conclusion of an association agreement between Turkey and the European Economic Community in 1963.

Great respect for domestic reforms in Turkey

Schröder indicated that a timetable for accession negotiations had been agreed on at past European Council meetings and that a decision would be taken on Turkish EU membership at the end of 2004. Important criteria for this decision include compliance with human rights standards and the existence of a democratic system of government governed by the rule of law. Schröder said he had great respect for the progress the Erdogan government has made in these areas and that this will help make the road to EU membership smoother for Turkey. Prime Minister Erdogan underscored the importance of the reforms initiated by his government. He expressed his gratitude for the support being given by the German government, saying that this will be very helpful in implementing the reforms. Erdogan added to these words of thanks a request that the subject of Turkish accession to the European Union not be used as an issue in German domestic politics.

More important role for the UN in Iraq

Further talking points in the meeting between Erdogan and Schröder included international issues, particularly the situation in Afghanistan and in Iraq. They agreed that the United Nations needs to play a much greater role in the political process in Iraq and that the process of democratizing and stabilizing the country must succeed. Erdogan made reference to his country's strong humanitarian involvement in Iraq, saying that Turkey sends between 2000 and 3000 truckloads of relief goods into Iraq daily and is planning to build two hospitals there. With regard to the case of fundamentalist Islamic cleric Metin Kaplan, both heads of government called for his rapid deportation to Turkey. Schröder said a decision handed down by a Cologne court blocking deportation will have to be appealed.

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