Stoiber Speaks Out Against SPD and Turkish EU Membership | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.10.2006

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Stoiber Speaks Out Against SPD and Turkish EU Membership

At the Christian Social Union (CSU) party convention this weekend, party leader Edmund Stoiber unambiguously rejected EU membership for Turkey and sharply criticized the other half of the Grand Coalition.

Edmund Stoiber and Angela Merkel, holding a bouqet of flowers

Study: Most Germans don't think Edmund Stoiber and Angela Merkel work well together

"Europe is a community of values, and I say yes to close cooperation, to friendship with Turkey but if we want to make the European Union an intellectual center, then I say Turkey has no place here," said Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber Saturday at a CSU party convention in Augsburg.

Stoiber, who is also the chairman of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party and coalition partner of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), contradicted US President George Bush on the issue of Turkey's potential accession to the European Union.

"I disagree very clearly with President Bush when he says that Turkey must join Europe for security policy reasons," Stoiber said. "I say, bring Nicaragua into the US and then we can talk about it."

"Take off your headscarves"

Kurt Beck, giving a speech

Kurt Beck is party leader for the SPD

The conservative leader appealed to the Muslims in Germany to distance themselves from terror and violence and to integrate into daily German culture. About 3.5 million Muslims live in Germany, 2.5 million of whom are Turkish.

Stoiber's appeal coincided with statements from German politicians with Turkish roots who called for Muslim women in Germany to stop wearing headscarves.

"You live here, so take off your headscarves," parliamentarian Ekin Deligöz (Green Party) told Bild am Sonntag.

Stoiber lashed out at SPD

At the CSU party convention Saturday, Edmund Stoiber accused the Social Democrats, which make up the governing coalition together with the CDU and CSU, of blocking reforms and being disloyal to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

EU and Turkish flags in front of a mosque in Istanbul

Merkel has said that Turkey's EU membership depends on resolving ties to Cyprus

"We could achieve considerably more progress in Berlin if the SPD didn't put the brakes on so many issues," said the Bavarian premier, mentioning in particular the Hartz IV labor market reform, the renewal of corporate tax and the energy policy.

He was particularly critical of Kurt Beck, SPD chairman and governor of North Rhine- Westphalia, saying his small state had much higher debts than the large state of Bavaria.

"Mr. Beck should do his homework before setting his sights higher," said Stoiber, referring to Beck's potential candidacy for the chancellorship in 2009.

CSU losing public support

Members of the SPD responded defensively to Stoiber's criticism.

"We will continue to experience in the future that Stoiber is the greatest security risk for the grand coalition," said Florian Pronold, deputy state leader for the SPD in Bavaria. "With his escape from Berlin and his fickleness in the health reform, Stoiber himself is responsible for the fact that he and his party have lost significance."

Indeed, public support for the CSU has dropped under the symbolic 50 percent mark in Bavaria, where the conservative Catholic party has governed alone since the mid-1960s.

In addition, a poll by ZDF television published Friday showed that only 24 percent of Germans believe Stoiber and Merkel have a good working relationship, while 43 percent see Merkel and Beck's working relationship as positive.

Stoiber, who lost the 2002 general election, has carved out a reputation as being fickle by repeatedly criticizing health reform proposals from the CDU and SPD. He faces re-election in 2008.

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