by Ray Fleming

Chancellor Merkel's short visit to Turkey has been important and to some extent encouraging. In addition to mutual trade relations Germany is host to some three million Turkish “guest workers” many of whom arrived in the 1960s and have chosen to stay.

Germany therefore has a key voice in negotiations for Turkey's membership of the European Union which began in 2005 but have been virtually stalled for five years, mainly because of opposition from Cyprus, half of whose territory is occupied by Turkey, but also by France and some other EU members who think a “privileged partnership” with Turkey would be more appropriate than full membership. Turkey, which introduced several new laws to meet EU standards at the start of negotiations now believes that no progress will be made and is beginning to look elsewhere.

Frau Merkel said yesterday that although she remains sceptical about the possibility of Turkey's full membership of the EU she wants to see a “new chapter” of negotiations started. There are also signs that President Hollande may soften the opposition shown by Nicolas Sarkoky to Turkish accession. One of Merkel's visits in Turkey was to the border with Syria where NATO German and US military operate defensive Patriot missiles against possible Syrian attacks. The Turkish government must often wonder why it can be one the most important arms of NATO yet is blocked from joining the EU.