German FM Gabriel says Turkey-EU membership negotiations ‘nonsense’

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Calling negotiations between Turkey and the EU “nonsense to a large extent,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has blamed the estrangement between Turkey and Germany on Turkey’s autocratic President Tayyip Erdoğan, Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.

Following the recent detentions of two more German nationals in Turkey, Gabriel said the negotiations between Turkey and the EU are “nonsense to a large extent,” while he did not support ending EU membership negotiations with Turkey.

Erdoğan is trying to give the impression that the Germans and Europeans are alienating Turkey’ yet in reality Turkey is incredibly rapidly moving away from the EU, Gabriel said.

According to Gabriel, Erdoğan is looking for an enemy outside the country to cover up internal conflicts and has chosen Europeans, particularly the Germans, as the enemy.

After two more German nationals were detained for political reasons, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz reiterated their opposition to Turkey’s EU membership.

According to Merkel, there is no legal basis for the detention of German nationals in Turkey. “That’s why we need to react decisively here,” she said, adding that the government would “perhaps have to rethink” its relations with Turkey.

Merkel also said on Sunday that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union and that she would seek a joint EU decision to that effect with the bloc’s other leaders. “The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” Merkel said on Sunday during a television debate with Martin Schulz, her Social Democratic rival in elections later this month.

According to AFP, she said she would speak with her EU counterparts to see if “we can end these membership talks.”

Schulz also said he would stop Turkey’s bid to join the EU if he were to be elected chancellor.

The comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the two NATO allies after Merkel said on Friday Berlin should react decisively to Turkey’s politically motivated detention of two more German citizens.

Earlier, Germany had signaled that there would be no extension of Turkey’s participation in a customs union with the European Union amid issues of democracy in Turkey.

In the run-up to the elections in Germany, the opposition parties urged Merkel to issue an official travel warning for Turkey. Most recently, the German foreign minister said Germans could be arrested in Turkey even during a vacation on the grounds that the owner of the hotel in which they are staying is accused of ties to the Gülen movement.

Turkey has been undertaking a massive purge against real and perceived supporters of the Gülen movement.

Against such a backdrop, Merkel indicated a change of tone with Turkey during a business event in the southern city of Nuremberg, noting that Germany had already fundamentally revamped its relations with Ankara. “Given the latest events, perhaps it is necessary to rethink them ever further,” she said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said on Monday that any talk of ending his country’s negotiations for EU accession amounts to an “attack on Europe’s founding principles.”

Responding to recent remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) leader Martin Schulz on Sunday night saying that Turkey should not join the EU, Çelik said in series of tweets on Monday, “They are building a Berlin wall with bricks of populism.”

Turkey will “keep going with its head held high as a European country and a European democracy,” he said. Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın on Monday has also criticized remarks made by Merkel and Schulz over Turkey and said the anti-Erdoğan stance in Europe has become a means of comfort for Europeans. Arguing that attacks by Germany and the EU against Turkey and Erdoğan reflect the narrowing horizon of the EU, Kalın said that “The opposition to Turkey in Europe has become a means of comforting themselves through which they can ignore fundamental problems and define themselves via an ‘other’ enemy. Those societies that define themselves through an enemy can never find their identities.”

Kalın also criticized Merkel and Schulz for not addressing discrimination and racism during the debate.

Moreover, Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has called on the German government to issue a travel alert for Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on Monday.

Seehofer’s remarks came after two more German nationals, one of whom was released on Monday, were detained in Turkey on Friday for political reasons. “If German citizens can be arrested for illogical reasons, the federal government must tell people that they should not travel to Turkey because it is dangerous,” said Seehofer.

Reiterating his demand from Brussels to cut off European Union financial aid for Ankara and to not disburse 4.2 billion euros it had promised, Seehofer said the customs union agreement with Turkey should not be expanded as long as the principles of a state of law are ignored in Turkey.

According to the German government, there are in total 55 German nationals, 12 of whom are arrested for political reasons, in Turkey’s prisons. Among them are German journalists and a human rights defender.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has long been accusing Germany of harboring terrorists, while the pro-Erdoğan media claim that Germany is working systematically to undermine Turkey’s development. Germany hosts around 3 million immigrants of Turkish descent. Turkey is a popular vacation destination for German tourists. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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