Merkel wants end to Turkey's European Union accession talks

04 September, 2017, 13:13 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Merkel's Social Democrat rival bullish ahead of German TV clash

Schulz said at the TV duel that if he becomes German Chancellor, he will stop accession talks with Turkey.

Sunday night's debate saw Merkel and Schulz lock horns over how to deal with Turkey and the issue of migrants.

Merkel's tough line comes after Ankara arrested two more German nationals for "political reasons", according to Berlin.

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The 90-minute session - the only such debate of the campaign - featured an entirely civil exchange of ideas between Germany's leader for the past dozen years and the man who wants her job, Martin Schulz. This principled stance has won her respect, especially among the young, while the far-right movement she defied has lost momentum.

The escalating tensions have split the Turkish community in Europe's top economy, the largest diaspora overseas, which is a legacy of Germany's "guest worker" programme of the 1960s and 70s.

And as Schulz voiced his wish to end European Union membership talks with Turkey amid escalating tensions with Ankara, Merkel stole the issue from under his feet as she said she did not "see them ever joining" the bloc. The party was still trailing behind Merkel's Christian Democratic Union by around 13 percentage points.

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Although polls taken afterwards showed Merkel had prevailed, Schulz's efforts weren't entirely wasted: Before the debate, 60 percent of respondents in a poll for broadcaster ZDF said they would rather have Merkel as chancellor, compared to 33 percent for Schulz.

Speaking in a TV interview last week, Merkel labeled diesel and other combustion engines "bridge technologies" toward a cleaner future and added that diesel cars would be needed not just for years, but "for decades more". Some 55 per cent of those polled for ARD television found the chancellor convincing against 35 per cent for Mr Schulz.

In Germany, the debate format is different. But Mrs Merkel insisted Germany had been faced with a "very dramatic situation" and had no choice but to act. Allowing hundreds of thousands of people into the country was the "absolutely correct" thing to do at the time, the chancellor said.

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But after the moderators had moved on and asked the two candidates a question about US President Donald Trump, Merkel returned to the Turkey issue, suddenly throwing her weight behind an end to the membership talks.

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