Berlin’s Turkish community has expressed disillusionment after the two main candidates for German chancellor said they did not want Turkey to join the European Union.
Some felt stabbed in the back when Social Democrat Martin Schulz said he would “fight” to halt Turkey’s formal EU accession talks, which started in 2005.
“We are very disappointed by Mr. Schulz. Mr. Schulz was much better before, he supported Turkey becoming a member of the EU,” said Gürgöze Firar, a German resident of 30 years.
“We don’t want it anymore either, to be in the EU. Turkish President Erdogan once wanted to join Europe, but they said ‘first you have to finish this in Turkey, you have to finish that, and this.’ We’ve already done it all,” said Serhat Dogan, who has lived in Berlin for 10 years.
“We shouldn’t do everything they ask us so that we can join Europe. We don’t want that. What we can do, we’ve already done.”
Germany’s increasingly frosty relations with Turkey took centre stage? during Sunday’s debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Schulz, her main challenger in the September 24 general election.
Merkel said Turkey was breaking away from democratic values and should not join the EU, while Schulz went as far as labeling President Erdogan an “autocratic leader”.
Schulz, who in the past supported Turkey’s aspirations to become an EU member state, said in Sunday’s debate that he would end talks with Ankara about joining the bloc because of what he called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian policies.
“If I become German chancellor, if the people of this country give me a mandate, then I will propose to the European Council that we end the membership talks with Turkey,” Schulz said.
“Whether we can win over all the countries for this I don’t know. But I will fight for this.”
Merkel, who has previously expressed doubts about Turkey ever joining the EU, refused to commit firmly to the same move, but she sharply criticized Erdogan’s rule.
“Turkey is departing from all democratic practices at breakneck speed,” she said.
The accession talks have already ground to a virtual halt as Turkey’s ties with Germany and several other EU states deteriorated sharply this year.
Ankara accuses Germany of harboring terrorist opposition groups and Berlin has slammed Turkey for a post-coup crackdown on dissidents and the arrest of several German citizens on what it considers are political charges.