German chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to shut down Turkey’s EU accession talks and defended her open-door refugee policy.
Merkel made the Turkey pledge in a pre-election TV debate with her main rival, former European Parliament head Martin Schulz, on Sunday (3 September).
“The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said.
“I’ll speak to my [EU] colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” she added.
Her surprise remarks, which she made impromptu in a segment on North Korea, represented an on-air U-turn.
Schulz had earlier said he would end the Turkey negotiations.
“If I were chancellor, I’d ask the European Council to end the accession talks with Turkey … We should not allow in a country that is against EU values,” he said.
“The only thing [Turkish president] Erdogan understands is: ‘Now it’s over’. We need to be clear in this: ‘No money to Turkey anymore’ – then he will think carefully about his actions,” he added.
Merkel immediately agreed on cutting aid and on ending talks on a new customs deal, but she said a rift with Turkey could put in danger the 12 German nationals currently in prison there on political charges.
“Slashing pre-accession aid, I’m in immediately,” she said.
“There’s no way talks for enhancing the customs union come into question,” she also said.
The rest of the 97-minute TV duel focused on refugees, North Korea, and Dieselgate.
Schulz, from the centre-left SPD party, accused Merkel of having lost an opportunity to create an EU solution to the migrant crisis by deciding unilaterally to let 1 million asylum seekers enter Germany in 2015.
“We need a European solution to the problem, and we lost this … The refugees kept coming for months and months,” he said.
The leaders diverged on North Korea, with Merkel saying the EU had to work with US president Donald Trump on the missile crisis, but with Schulz saying Trump’s war rhetoric was too much.
“I don’t think that one can solve this conflict without the American president,” Merkel said.
Schulz said Trump was “bringing the world to the brink of crisis with his tweets”.
“He’s incalculable, so we will have to talk with reliable partners [instead],” he said.
Full article: Merkel pledges to end Turkey’s EU talks (euobserver)