Erdogan congrulates Merkel on her reelection as German chancellor
Speaking on the phone yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Angela Merkel on her reelection as German chancellor in the weekend general elections. Thanking Erdogan, Merkel reportedly expressed her wish to visit Turkey a soon as possible. In related news, Merkel's plan to offer Turkey a "privileged partnership" with the European Union in lieu of membership is outdated and Ankara should get a chance to meet the bloc's membership criteria, a senior German Free Democrat said yesterday. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) scored its best-ever result in Sunday's election and is expected to form a new center-right government with Merkel's conservatives once coalition negotiations are wrapped up in the coming weeks. Merkel is opposed to Turkey's EU bid and the stance of the FDP, whose leader, Guido Westerwelle, is expected to take over as foreign minister, will influence Berlin's official stance on this question and a range of other foreign policy issues. Werner Hoyer, the FDP's foreign policy spokesman in the Bundestag, said Turkey deserves an opportunity to fulfill the European Union's criteria, even if it takes years. "We are much more open to Turkish membership in the EU and now that we're negotiating, we should negotiate with this possibility of Turkey joining," Hoyer said. "I think the phrase 'privileged partnership' is a bit outdated nowadays." EU countries unanimously agreed to open official accession talks with Turkey in 2005, before Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, another prominent skeptic about Turkey's bid, took power.