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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The leaders have expressed various opposing ideasImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Merkel in Turkey

March 29, 2010

Germany's resistance to full Turkish membership in the EU is one thorny issue to be addressed as Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Ankara. Discussions are planned on a series of issues, including integration of immigrants.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Turkey on Monday for a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including some on which the leaders do not appear to see eye to eye.

Turkish efforts to secure membership of the EU, proposed sanctions against Iran, the Middle East peace process and the integration of Turkish immigrants into German society are all possible points of disagreement.

Merkel is meeting Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara before going on to visit Turkey's largest city Istanbul.

A German and Turkish flag in front of a minarette in Gelsenkirchen
There appear to be differences over the issue of integrationImage: AP

Turkey's EU membership bid became a renewed topic of conversation at the weekend when Turkish premier Erdogan rejected a German proposal to give the country "special status." Berlin does not want Turkey to enter the EU as a full member, preferring a more limited arrangement.

But the Turkish leader vowed not be deterred in Turkey's quest to join the EU in advance of the talks.

"We are already in negotiations for full membership," said Erdogan, dismissing the German suggestion. "When proposals are made that differ from this framework, it's like shifting the goal post during a penalty kick in a soccer match – absurd."

Iran's nuclear ambitions

The leaders set out radically different strategies for dealing with Iran and its suspected nuclear ambitions at the weekend, with Merkel saying that sanctions were a possibility.

Atom symbol over Iran flag
Merkel said sanctions should be considered against IranImage: AP

"If Iran does not in the end show transparency over the question of nuclear energy, we must also consider sanctions," Merkel said in a video message posted on her official website on Saturday. "This will be a topic of discussion in Ankara."

However, Erdogan said he felt sanctions would not work, preferring negotiations. "There have already been multiple sanctions placed on Iran, but what is the result?" he told the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Differences surface over integration

Differences between Ankara and Berlin have also surfaced over the issue of integration of immigrants in German society. In her video address, Merkel called for greater efforts to teach Turkish immigrants to speak German fluently.

"What we want is people who live among us over several generations to integrate into this country, meaning being included in social advances, in working life and in family life."

Turkish schoolgirls being taught in Bremen
Erdogan wants more schools for Turkish pupilsImage: AP

"That obviously involves learning the German language and obeying German laws," she said.

More Turkish schools?

Prime minister Erdogan said last week that immigrants from his country needed more schools in Germany where they could be taught in Turkish. Erdogan has previously told immigrants living in Germany that to lose their culture would be a "crime against humanity."

The Middle East peace process and business ties between Germany and Turkey are among the other topics due to be discussed.

The German Chamber of Commerce (DIHK) urged Merkel to improve ease the way for business transactions between the countries.

DIHK president Hans Heiinrich Driftamann told the German daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung that a "substantial easing" of travel restrictions was an important factor.

Editor: Rob Turner

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