BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador on Friday to complain about a government minister who criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for saying she was “appalled” by the crackdown on protesters in Turkey.
Turkey’s minister for relations with the European Union, Egemen Bagis, accused Merkel on Thursday of blocking a new chapter in talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU because she was “looking for domestic political material for her elections”.
Many EU countries support the opening of more negotiations with Turkey next week on its long path to membership. They argue that Turkey, with its fast-growing economy, youthful population and its diplomatic clout, would be a great asset for the EU.
But Germany has criticized Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s forceful response to weeks of anti-government protests and appears to be refusing to agree to open a new negotiation area, potentially the first such step in three years.
Merkel’s conservatives reject Turkish EU membership in their platform for September’s election, saying it would “overburden” the bloc because of the country’s size and economy, though Merkel has stopped short of calling a halt to accession talks.
“Neither the chancellor nor the government are questioning the accession process in any way. We are not talking about ‘whether’, just about ‘how’, to continue the accession process,” said German deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter.
Foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said the Turkish minister’s comments were “unacceptable” and that Ankara’s envoy to Berlin had been summoned for consultations in the early afternoon.
Peschke reiterated that the process was being held up by unspecified “technical reasons” rather than concerns about the Turkish crackdown, adding that the Dutch shared the German view. Chapter 22 of the talks deals with regional politics.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said this week he would like to see discussion of the chapters 23 and 24 that deal with civil rights, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. These have been blocked by other EU member states because of concerns about Turkey’s record on human and civil rights.
Reporting by Michelle Martin and Stephen Brown; Editing by Stephen Brown and Gareth Jones