Merkel signals eased visas for Turksih nationals, with Erdogan urging their removal
As part of her official visit to Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday attended a meeting of the Turkish-German Business Forum in Istanbul. Speaking to a large crowd of Turkish and German businesspeople, Merkel said that her country may ease visa requirements for Turkish nationals, and issue long-term visas, especially for businesspeople, students and artists. Stressing that there is a great untapped economic potential between Turkey and Germany, Merkel pledged to continue to mine this potential. "There is great room for further economic cooperation between our countries, and we have much work to do," she said. Merkel said the two countries need to remove obstacles before the further improvement of their economic cooperation. "We need to renew our agreement to prevent double taxation, an issue I discussed with Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan," she explained. "We agreed to work together to solve problems so that the agreement could be renewed next year at the latest." Stating that the security of Turkey's borders is an important issue in its European Union accession process, Merkel said that Turkey is working hard to ensure border security. "Some illegal immigrants use Turkey as a transit country to come to Europe, and the security of Turkish borders should be much stronger. Along these lines, a deal on extraditing criminals is also needed," Merkel said. Also speaking at the meeting, Erdogan urged Germany to do more to support to Turkey's EU bid, saying that Turkey sees Germany as a "natural" ally. "We want to see Germany as the country making the greatest contributions and giving the strongest support to Turkey's EU accession bid," he said. Telling how Turkey recently lifted visa requirements with a number of regional countries, with Russia possibly joining this group, Erdogan expressed hope that Turkey and Germany would make a similar deal as soon as possible. "Turkey is eager to forge a strategic partnership with Germany and set up a council for high-level strategic cooperation," Erdogan stressed. "Our countries' ties of friendship and cooperation have deep historical roots. Turkey's relations with Germany are so special that they are in a different league than its relations with other European countries. We have citizens and investments in a number of European countries, but they aren't comparable to the size of the Turkish population and the volume of Turkish investments in Germany. I think Turkey should have a special importance for Germany, too." Over 3 million Turks now live in Germany, many in successful careers as politicians, artists and businesspeople, he said. "The children and grandchildren of the Turkish citizens who first set foot in Germany 50 years ago are now German citizens who can speak German as well as native Germans. And their integration, without assimilation, into German society is a must," he said. Erdogan also argued that Turkey's eventual EU membership wouldn't place an extra burden on the Union, but on the contrary would lighten the Union's load. Erdogan urged the EU to take concrete steps to provide necessary financing for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project.