Turkey’s membership in the EU seems almost unrealistic given the degree of political bickering between Ankara and certain European capitals, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a blunt statement.
“Turkey is now further away from EU membership than ever before,” Gabriel told Der Spiegel in an interview, adding that he has always been apprehensive about Turkey’s accession bid, but “was rather a minority in Social Democratic Party [SPD].”
However, other options are still on the table and being considered, he said, adding there is now “a completely different situation” in light of Brexit.
Britain, which is preparing to leave the EU, would enjoy a “special relationship” with the 27-member bloc – a scheme that can work “as a blueprint for other countries,” including Turkey, he said.
Still, Gabriel warned that Turkish officials will be refused entry to the EU if they come to campaign for their country’s upcoming referendum on expanding President Recep Tayip Erdogan’s powers.
“We have made it very clear from the very outset that we can and will take necessary measures should Turkey fail to comply with German legal system,” the foreign minister said.
“Whoever crosses the line should not believe that he is allowed to propagate his political views [here in Germany],” the foreign minister stressed.
Gabriel’s interview came as a political crisis is unfolding between Turkey and several European countries that have banned pro-Erdogan rallies and events at which top-tier Turkish officials had been invited to speak. Ankara has slammed the cancelations as an overreaction, branding German and Dutch leaders “Nazi remnants” who were proponents of “fascist practices.”
On Friday, a Turkish daily newspaper, Gunes (‘Sun’), added fuel to the fire with a front page on which German Chancellor Angela Merkel is depicted in full Nazi garb wearing Adolf Hitler’s moustache.
“She-Hitler” (written in Turkish) read the headline, as Merkel stands in a Nazi uniform holding a gun next to the words “#Frau Hitler” (written in German). Berlin reacted by saying it will not take part “in a game of provocation.”
If Germany comes down hard on Turkey, it will surely strengthen Erdogan and bring dire consequences, Gabriel stressed, while not referring to the publication directly.
“We need Turkey in the anti-Islamic State coalition, we need Turkey in Syria, we must prevent it from becoming a disruptive factor in our efforts to stabilize Libya,” he explained.
Discord and mutual mistrust have been complicating Turkey’s relationship with the EU for over two years now. While European leaders are generally wary of Turkey’s desire to enter the bloc, Ankara has accused Brussels of giving it second-class treatment and demonstrating a lack of commitment to strengthening ties.
More concerns have been raised since German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel was recently arrested, sparking sharp criticism from German officials. Yucel is now facing trial in Turkey accused by Erdogan of spreading terrorist propaganda and being a German spy.