The question of Turkey's bid for membership in the EU topped German newspapers on Tuesday as the leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel, concluded a two-day visit to Ankara.
"Angela Merkel is campaigning for a privileged partnership between Turkey and the EU while at the same time opposing full membership," observed the Stuttgarter Zeitung. It noted that the Christian Democratic Union views the issue as a "suitable theme" in the upcoming European parliamentary elections campaign. "But it is quite embarrassing for Merkel," the paper said, referring to the fact that two leading foreign policy figures within her own party have taken up different positions. "They not only demand a fair chance for Turkey, but also remind their boss that it’s up to the EU to decide whether Turkey meets all the requirements to start entry talks."
"If the EU is currently discussing the entry of Rumania, Europe’s poor house, without anyone protesting, then Turkey must be given the same right," argued the Abendzeitung from Munich. It suggested "Angela Merkel is taking the easy way out by simply saying 'no' to any kind of negotiations with Turkey."
The Handelsblatt reminded its readers that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan is expecting a far more important visitor than Merkel in only a week’s time when German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder travels to Turkey. Contrary to the opposition leader, Schröder will "assure him of the solidarity which Ankara urgently needs." The paper predicted that in the end "it will hinge on the big three: Germany, France and Great Britain to determine whether Turkey should become part of the EU or not."
The mass daily Bild endorsed Merkel’s position, saying "the question is not, whether Turkey is ready for the European Union but whether Europe is ready for Turkey." The paper pointed out that first the 10 new members from eastern and southern Europe must be integrated into the current 15-member bloc before Brussels can begin focusing its efforts elsewhere. For this reason, the paper supported Merkel’s proposal to discuss the question of opening entry talks with Turkey at a later point.
The Märkische Oderzeitung agreed in principle. The regional paper from the country's former East reminded its readers that the EU is currently overextending its capacities because of the enlargement process. "If this is already true now," the paper wrote, "the situation will be even more serious when it comes to Turkey – a country with 70 million people, huge population growth and an economic capacity which is at about a quarter of the European average."