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Gunter Verheugen tells Anadolu Agency next German government must develop credible long term Turkish policy

Avrupa\London - The European Union's former enlargement chief has criticized German political leaders for calling for an end to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations ahead of the country’s federal election on Sunday.Gunter Verheugen, in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, said: “I think both Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival Martin Schulz are aware that Germany cannot simply call of Turkey’s EU membership talks.“For that to happen, all other EU members should back such a move. But this is not the case.”Merkel, who is leading her Christian Democrats into Sunday’s vote, has come under enormous pressure from political rivals to sharpen her tone towards Turkey due to political tensions between Berlin and Ankara.She has promised to raise the possibility of freezing or ending Turkey’s membership talks at an EU leaders' summit next month.Earlier, her main rival -- Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz -- called for an immediate halt to Ankara’s EU membership talks and the freezing of pre-accession funding.Verheugen, who was EU Enlargement Commissioner from 1999 to 2004, also voiced concern over growing anti-Turkey rhetoric in the German election campaign.“This has two reasons: The dramatic deterioration of relations between Germany and Turkey in the last two years…and the deep-rooted fear [of] Muslim immigration among some Germans,” he said.However, Verheugen underlined that ending Turkey’s EU membership talks would not help resolve political disagreements between European capitals and Ankara. 'Strategic priority'The prominent German politician proposed an alternative policy, which he said could also address European concerns on recent developments in Turkey.“I advise the next German government to develop a credible and long-term Turkey policy together with its EU partners,” Verheugen stressed.“The EU should make it perfectly clear that Turkey’s EU membership is a strategic priority for the union, not something that one can lay aside,” he added.

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