The German Chancellor has called for open-ended talks between the EU and Turkey over possible Turkish membership of the Union.
Many of the three million Turkish citizens living in Germany will be watching closely when Angela Merkel visits Turkey on Sunday and Monday.
The country is one of Germany’s biggest trading partners outside the EU.
Membership might bring practical benefits for traders at Berlin’s Turkish market.
“For me it’s important that Turkey joins the EU so that we can show that Christians and Muslims can live together in harmony,” said one stall holder.
The German Chancellor raised the issue herself on Saturday, ahead of her trip to Turkey. Despite her reservations about Turkish membership she believes talks, which have stalled, should be revived.
“I think a long negotiating path lies ahead of us. I agreed on open-ended talks over Turkish membership of the European Union, although I’m sceptical,” she said.
There has been concern in Germany that opposition to Turkish membership might drive Ankara away from Europe altogether. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed what he called
the Chancellor’s “positive statement” on opening a new chapter of negotiations – adding that he hoped it would bring progress during Ireland’s presidency of the EU.
Turkey’s accession negotiations are stuck over the dispute over Cyprus, opposition from several quarters, and concern over human rights and freedom of speech: the European Commission says Ankara does not yet meet EU standards.