Turkey's president insistent on EU membership

Turkey's president insistent on EU membership

Turkish President Abdullah Gul told Germany Monday that Ankara still wants to join the European Union and will not be satisfied with a lesser status that gives it no voice in EU councils, dpa reported.

At a Berlin news conference, Gul rejected anything short of membership.

"We are not going to give up this strategic objective," he said, adding that Turkey wanted to revive slow-moving talks with the EU.

Gul, who was beginning the official part of a four-day stay in Germany, meanwhile won backing in Berlin from his host, the mainly ceremonial German president, Christian Wulff, on a longtime source of friction: EU visas for Turkish travellers.

Wulff recommended that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government seek ways for business visitors from Turkey to visit without onerous applications in advance. But he defended rules requiring Turkish brides to learn German before arriving in Germany to marry and live with partners already in the country.

In a speech prepared for delivery to the German Turkish Forum on Trade, Wulff said Germany wanted to remain Turkey's main trade partner. He added that it was in Germany's interest to have closer relations between Turkey and the EU.

The Merkel coalition government is officially open to Turkey joining, but Merkel's own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and a Bavarian sibling, the CSU, oppose Turkish membership and want the link restricted to a "privileged partnership."

Wulff said at the news conference that Berlin supported "fair accession negotiations where the outcome is open," the formula used by the Merkel government in the past. He said Germany was predominantly neutral, not hostile.

"Turkey has to make an effort. So does the European Union," he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Simsek earlier signed an agreement on double taxation.

The agreement is vital to an estimated 3.5 million people of Turkish origin who currently live in Germany, many of them with taxable income in both countries. It replaces a previous double-taxation agreement that Germany terminated.

Gul's visit has been timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Turkey-Germany labour recruitment agreement of 1961, which paved the way for a massive influx of Turkish workers to Germany.

On Tuesday morning, Gul is to meet with Merkel and visit Wulff's home town, Osnabrueck.

The fourth and last day will be spent in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Gul arrived in Germany on Sunday, but the first day of his stay was dedicated to private functions.

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