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Europe

German Press Review: A Long Way to Go

German editorials on Friday looked at Germany's claim for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and the state of EU-Turkish relations.

Turkey's bid to join the European Union is back on track, after the Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, backed down on the issue of making adultery a criminal offence. He told the EU commission that an important package of reforms would be passed, but without the adultery paragraph. In return for that, it looks likely that the EU Commission will now issue a positive report on Turkey's readiness to start negotiations on accession.

The business daily Handelsblatt thought it's too early for celebrations. There are still a lot of problems to be solved, it said. "Reforms to the criminal justice system have not yet been implemented," it pointed out. "Torture and abuse continue, the military still plays a central role. There's a long way to go to a democratic state." And the breakthrough on this issue has solved none of the real problems of a possible Turkish accession. "Neither Turkey nor the EU are at all ready for an eternal wedding," the paper concluded.

The Handelsblatt wrote that the row over the adultery law was played out in order to allow for a dramatic reconciliation. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agreed. "Erdogan had to offer something to his conservative Islamist voters, even though he himself is not in favor of criminalizing adultery, after he had failed to push through two other Islamic projects," the paper wrote. His backing down got him applause in Brussels. Once the talks begin though, things will move fast. The issue was decided long ago by the country's elites, the paper concluded.

The Frankfurter Rundschau insisted that it all ought to depend on whether Turkey applies European standards on such issues as the protection of minorities. And that also applies in the last little corner of Anatolia, the daily wrote. But it fears that the EU is being a bit easygoing about Turkey. There's so much support for Turkish entry among powerful European circles, not least in Germany, that they're likely not to look too closely in Brussels. That could lead to an unpleasant awakening in a few years, the paper concluded.

The Financial Times Deutschland, unlike the other papers, saw the adultery law as an important issue, since it has shown the two sides what the problems between them are all about. In spite of Europe's old promises to Turkey, and the significance of Turkey as a bridgehead to the Muslim world, the EU is a community of values, the paper noted. The dispute over the adultery law has shown that to both sides at just the right moment. If other such issues come up, the European Union must act as firmly as they have this time. And it must be clear to the Turks that there is no going back to an Islamic state once they are in

the EU. The EU would be well advised to keep the standards for Turkey high, wrote the daily.

Turning to Germany's UN aspirations, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung said that Germany is acting in the context of narrow outmoded concepts of the nation-state. The future belongs to regional cooperation, which means as far as Europe is concerned, not seats for individual states but for the community as a whole, according to the paper.

And the Rheinpfalz of Ludwigshafen said it's astonishing that the foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, travels around the world drumming up support for a German seat, but neither he nor the Chancellor have explained to their own people what the consequences of such a move would be. If you take over responsibility, you have more duties: It listed a number of things, like the fight against poverty worldwide or the maintenance of military forces throughout the world to deal with crises. Do the Germans want that, asked the daily. It would be good if the politicians would start a discussion of that in their own country first.

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