Dropping talks with Turkey, currently Europe's "difficult partner," make little sense, Germany's center-left Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said. Any Turkish EU accession remains "10, 20 years" distant, he added.
Germany's Social Democrat (SPD) vice chancellor Gabriel told public ARD television Sunday that "every communications channel" to Turkey must be sought, given three weeks of post-coup tensions.
Gabriel, as guest on ARD's summer vacation interview series with leading German politicians, is currently the focus of German media speculation on whether his party will pick him to challenge conservative Angela Merkel at next year's federal election.
Currently, they and their parties form Germany's grand coalition government.
On ARD, Gabriel dismissed Turkey's accession bid - begun at talks in 2005 and centered on hopes for a visa-free entry to Europe - saying currently the EU was not at all in shape to admit "even a small state" to its 28-nation' ranks.
'Illusion,' 'complete nonsense'
"The illusion … here comes someone to soon become a full member in the EU … that's complete nonsense … that will not eventuate." said Gabriel, who is also Federal Economy Minister.
If Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced the death penalty then it would make no sense to negotiate accession further, Gabriel added, because this would violate a "central element" of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Asked about Turkish threats to cancel the EU-Turkey deal reached in March to stem migrant flows along the "Balkan route," Gabriel said Turkish hopes of visa-free access to Europe and the migrant pact had "nothing to do with each other."
Germany's acceptance of more than one million asylum seekers last year had been hampered, Gabriel asserted, by Merkel's conservatives who were "not willing after the reception of so many people to create the conditions so that it could be done."
"We had to negotiate and wrangle over every police post, over every course for refugee integration, over every language course, over the question how to respond to young [asylum-seekers] traveling alone… in cabinet and with the [federal] finance minister - for months, and sometimes for more than a year," he said.
"There was a lot of wasted time that we could have used better," Gabriel said, adding that Merkel's "We can do it" motto of last September was not sufficient.
"One must also make it happen," said Gabriel, a former teacher, who once taught German to foreigners in his home state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany.
Boost police funding
Commenting on recent terror attacks in Germany's southern state of Bavaria, Gabriel told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that Germany's Federal Police or Bundespolizei needed boosted funding after years of cost-savings.
"The Bundespolizei must at long last be adequately equipped, with sufficient personnel and necessary technology," Gabriel said.
De Maiziere rejects criticism
Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close Merkel ally with the Christian Democrats (CDU), rejected Gabriel's criticism, saying for years his ministry had pursued a policy of boosting the Bundespolizei, which is chiefly responsible for Germany's railway stations, airports and external border.
"To talk of austerity measures cannot be the case," de Maizíere said.
Jörg Radek, the deputy chairman of the German GdP police officer trade union, told "Bild am Sonntag" the funding situation was "alarming."
"The Bundespolizei lacks five helicopters. On top of that there's a massive backlog in maintenance," Radek said. If the cost-saving trend continues in the coming year, the operational capability of the Bundespolizei will be endangered."
Ipj/bw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)