The refugee crisis and the EU deal with Turkey dominated the TV debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition ally SPD challenger Martin Schulz on Sunday. The rivals agreed, however, that Turkey can’t be part of the EU.
“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. Now all red lines are crossed, so this country can no longer become a member of the EU,”said Schulz during the debate, forcing the CDU leader to clarify her position on the issue.
“The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,”said Merkel, agreeing with Schulz.
“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,” added Merkel, who is hoping to get re-elected for a fourth term.
The government in Ankara is moving away from democratic principles at a “breathtaking” speed, Merkel said, adding that at the moment “the accession negotiations are non-existent.”
However, she refused to completely freeze the relationship with Turkey.
“If you want citizens to be freed, you have to continue the conversation,” she said, referring to the German citizens who have been imprisoned in Turkey over alleged spying activity.
Turkey has been receiving funding from the EU, which will reach €6 billion by 2018, as part of the deal to halt the migrant flow into Europe, signed in March 2016.
Turkey was also promised visa free travel and expedited talks on joining the EU, but the discussion of those issues remains stalled due to Ankara’s refusal to relax its harsh anti-terrorism laws.