After Erbakan's funeral, Erdogan facing tough EU mission this week
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and travel to Brussels tomorrow for talks with European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. But speaking shortly before leaving for Germany, Erdogan said he would first return to Istanbul on Tuesday for the funeral of Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey's first Islamist prime minister and his onetime mentor, before proceeding to Brussels. In Dusseldorf Erdogan was set to meet with Turks living in Germany before making a speech at the opening of the Turkish-German Economic Congress and inaugurating the CeBIT technology fair with Merkel today. In Brussels, Erdogan is set to hold talks with Barroso over Turkey's struggling bid to join the EU. Since Turkey and the EU began official accession talks in 2005, progress has stalled due to Ankara's refusal to open its ports to shipping from member Greek Cyprus as well as stiff opposition from the bloc's major members Germany and France. It remains unclear if Erdogan's visit to Brussels, the first since 2009, will help revive the negotiations. France is blocking the opening of five chapters in Turkey's accession negotiations, while Brussels froze eight chapters in response to Ankara's failure to open its ports to Greek Cyprus. Erdogan's trip comes as Turkey appears unenthusiastic to press for new EU reforms ahead of general elections set for June.