Cablegate: Turks in Germany Press Issue of Turkey's Eu

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Turks in Germany Press Issue of Turkey's EU


Sensitive but Unclassified not for Internet distribution

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Turkish community in Germany voiced
their frustration with opponents of Turkey's EU membership
at a high-profile May 25 debate in Frankfurt in which the
four major German parties sought to win the Turkish
community's support in the June 13 European and local
elections. At the event (hosted by a leading Turkish
organization), the Social Democrats (SPD) continued to
advocate Turkey's entry into the EU (with the Free Democrats
and Green Party also showing putative support) while the
conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) remained firm in
their rejection of opening accession negotiations. Audience
members (largely business representatives) cautioned that
the Turkish government has taken great strides to fulfill EU
requirements and that the political mood in Turkey could
quickly sour if the EU resets the goalpost. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) A consulate representative attended a campaign
debate organized by the "Rat der Tuerkeistaemmigen
Staatsbuerger in Deutschland" (Council of Turkish-born
citizens in Germany, an umbrella organization of 15 Turkish
associations), at which representatives of the four largest
German parties discussed Turkey's EU accession bid and
related issues. The following candidates took the stage:
-- Michael Gahler, CDU MEP (Hattersheim near Frankfurt)
-- Ozan Ceyhun, Turkish-born SPD MEP (Ruesselsheim -- near
-- Heide Ruehle, Green MEP from Boeblingen (Baden-
-- Kerstin Laabs, Free Democrat (FDP) European Parliament
candidate (Darmstadt).

3. (SBU) Gahler said that although the CDU would continue
to speak out against Turkey's membership in the EU, it would
not make the issue a centerpiece of its campaign (e.g., no
anti-membership billboards or television advertisements).
He reiterated his party's call for a "privileged
partnership" (including an expanded custom union and closer
cooperation on security issues -- see reftel) in lieu of
full EU membership for Turkey. Gahler listed several
reasons for the CDU's opposition to opening accession
negotiations in the near future, including the EU's need to
integrate its ten new members, Turkey's record on human
rights (e.g., the imprisonment of Kurdish activist Leila
Zana), and the possibility that early EU membership could
overwhelm Turkey and generate backlash among Turks in Turkey
against further European integration.

4. (SBU) The Turkish audience expressed its disappointment
with the CDU's stance and speculated that a "closed door"
policy could alienate and radicalize Turks across Europe and
in Turkey itself. Several participants cited Turkey's far-
reaching reforms and its 60 billion euro investment in the
EU-Turkey custom union as proof that Turkey could make the
necessary changes for EU membership within ten years -- the
length of time most observers expect accession negotiations
would last.

5. (SBU) The SPD's Ozan Ceyhun (the only German MEP with a
Turkish background) blamed the CDU for creating the
impression that Germans are voting on Turkey's EU membership
in the upcoming European elections. Ceyhun dubbed the CDU's
"privileged partnership" a "trick to keep Turkey out." He
emphasized that negotiations with Turkey had to be
accelerated to curb growing frustration and to make Turkey a
role model for the rest of the Muslim world. Participants
expressed strong support for Ceyhun, but some criticized
Interior Minister (and SPD member) Otto Schily's hard-line
stance on German immigration as well as a recent comment
attributed to (and denied by) Turkish-born SPD candidate
Vugal Oeger that "Turkish women will accomplish today what
Turkey could not 400 years ago" (i.e., a high birth rate
will allow today's Turks to "conquer" Europe, something that
the Ottomans failed to do in the 17th century).

6. (SBU) Greens representative Heide Ruehle delivered the
most well-received statement in favor of Turkey's EU
membership. Because of CDU "demagoguery", she said, 80
percent of the German population wrongly thinks negotiations
on EU membership will start soon after the elections, when
in fact all that will be decided this year is whether or not
to open negotiations -- and, if so, when. (Comment: Her
point is a bit disingenuous, given that the EU pledged in
December 2002 that a positive decision on opening
negotiations would be followed by the start of talks
"without delay" -- most likely in the first half of 2005.
End Comment.) She called the privileged partnership
"something we already have" and noted that, from a security
standpoint, delaying negotiations could destabilize Turkey.
Turning to Turkey's responsibilities, Ruehle called upon the
Turkish government to strengthen reforms in agriculture,
education, and the fight against corruption.

7. (SBU) FDP representative Kerstin Laabs noted that Turkey
had made significant progress in fulfilling the EU's
membership criteria. He stressed the cultural importance of
Turkey's accession to the EU, saying that Turkey's
membership could be a role model for peaceful cooperation
between Christians and Muslims.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Although three of Germany's four major
parties support EU membership for Turkey, audience reaction
at the conference centered on the CDU's continued
resistance. Most participants portrayed the CDU's reasons
for opposition as pretexts for a party that still does not
believe that Turkey is really part of Europe. Germany's
Turkish community worries that the CDU's rising national
popularity and continuing difficulties for the SPD could
mean a change of government following Germany's 2006
national elections and a resulting loss of German support
for Turkish EU membership. While nothing new was said at
the convention, the audience's pointed commentary highlights
a Turkish community in Germany increasingly anxious about
Turkey's future within the EU. END COMMENT.


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