Tension is rising between the EU and Turkey as Ankara threatens to abandon its bid to join the European Union. In Germany, the issue is taking on more importance in the runup to general elections.
Turkey wants in the EU but without strings attached
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül made it very clear that foot-dragging by the European Union in talks with his country will not be tolerated. So much so that if additional conditions to Turkey's accession to the EU are set, Ankara will abandon the whole process.
"Should they propose anything short of full membership or any new conditions, we will walk away," he said. "And this time it will be for good."
Turks supporting the sovereignty of Turkish Cyprus (flag left)
The announcement came one day after tension renewed between the two parties over Turkey's continued resistance to recognize the EU member Cyprus, which has been divided into two halves since 1974. Ankara supports the northern Turkish half of the island. The southern, Greek half belongs to the EU since 2004.
EU foreig n mi n isters i n Wales
In Newport, Wales, EU foreign ministers are meeting and one of the topics is the beginning of accession talks with Turkey on Oct. 3. Difference of opinion is wide-spread amongst the ministers as to just how to deal with Ankara.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said after the first informal meetings on Thursday that the ministers have not yet agreed about how to address Turkey's refusal to recognize Cyprus but expected agreement next week.
"Given the atmosphere today... I am reasonably confident about the beginning of negotiations on Oct. 3," he told reporters.
Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) was more than "reasonably confident.
"The important thing is that no foreign minister spoke against the start of talks on Oct. 3," Fischer, a member of the Greens, said after the meeting.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, following leads from French leaders who are reacting to public opposition to Turkish EU membership, felt that it was inconceivable that Ankara should negotiate accession while refusing to recognize an EU member state.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, however, said that since this was never a condition for membership talks, the EU could not suddenly change the rules.
Germa n domestic row about Turkish accessio n
In concord with increasing French resistance to Turkish membership, Germany's conservative opposition lashed out at the center-left coalition for the country's adherence to a policy that the majority of Germans, in their opinion, is against.
CDU leader Angela Merkel in a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Christian Social Union (CSU) foreign policy expert Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg criticized Berlin for giving Ankara a "not justifiable political rebate" by not pressing more firmly for Turkish leaders to recognize the Greek Cypriots. The potential coalition partners of the CDU/CSU, the Free Democrats (FDP), also reject Turkish membership in the EU. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that if Ankara cannot treat Cyprus on an equal footing with the other 24 EU states, then it risks the start of talks in October.
Christian Democrat leader and chancellor candidate Angela Merkel has been pushing for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey, a plan that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has so far rejected.