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Turkey

Merkel begins sensitive trip to Turkey

Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun a two-day trip to Turkey after hinting that Turkey's EU accession bid could be rejuvenated. A survey of Germans, however, shows that 60 percent oppose membership for Turkey.

Chancellor Merkel on Sunday visited some 300 German troops deployed at Kahramanmaras with Patriot missile units, as part of a NATO mission to deter a spillover of warfare from Syria. On Monday, she will meet Turkish leaders.

Merkel in Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media on Sunday as saying that he welcomed as "positive" Merkel's remark in her video podcast on Saturday that a "new chapter" could give "impetus" at accession talks amid a surge in trade between Turkey and Germany.

Merkel had, however, added that a "long path of negotiations lies ahead." In recent years, Merkel has spoken of only a "privileged partnership" between the EU and Turkey, which applied for membership back in 1987. Talks began in 2005.

Lengthy negotiations

Turkey has completed only one of 35 policy "chapters" or negotiating topics to gain EU accession, with Brussels citing Turkish failings to meet EU standards on human rights and freedoms. Turkey has complained of a lack of support.

The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag published a survey conducted by the polling agency Emnid on Sunday showing that six out of 10 Germans oppose a Turkish EU entry. Thirty percent were in favor, the rest were undecided.

Citzenship debate

Ahead of Merkel's departure, Germany's opposition Social Democrats Party (SPD) on Saturday challenged long-standing opposition among Merkel's conservatives to dual nationality – a measure also favored by Turkey's Erdogan.

SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that his party - if chosen in Germany's federal election in September - would adopt dual citizenship. "We need at this late stage a modern citizenship law," he said.

Almost three million people of Turkish origin live in Germany and form the largest group of foreign residents. Nearly half of them do not have a German passport.

A law provision adopted in 2000 requires youth of foreign origin born in Germany whose parents both come from non-EU nations to opt by the age of 23 for either German or their foreign nationality.

On Sunday the head of the youth branch of Merkel's CDU, Philipp Missfelder, dismissed the SPD's dual initiative, saying Germany's "option model" gave young people plenty of time to decide which single nationality they wanted to adopt.

The chairman of the association of Turkish communities in Germany, Kenan Kolat, told German NDR public broadcasting on Saturday that Germany would be "well advised" to regard multiple nationality not as a problem but as a chance.

ipj/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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