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Turkey: Angela Merkel calls for reduced EU funds

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for the EU to cut funding for Turkey linked to its bid to join the bloc. While raising concerns about the rule of law in the country, she praised Ankara's support for refugees. As she arrived at an EU summit on Thursday, Merkel said she considered developments in Turkey "very negative" in terms of European democratic values. "Not only are Germans being arrested, but the entire rule of law in Turkey is moving in the wrong direction. We are very worried about this. And I will back a reduction in pre-accession funds," Merkel said. Ankara is set to receive 4.4 billion euros from the EU in pre-accession support between 2014 and 2020. Read more: Turkey seeks extradition of German citizen in Ukraine NATO ally Turkey's drawn-out bid to join the European Union has stalled amid a crackdown on dissent and political opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A failed coup attempt in 2016 led to wide-scale purges of the armed forces, state institutions, media and academia. Some 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial. A referendum this year giving Erdogan sweeping new powers, which rights groups say lack checks and balances, is seen as another roadblock to EU membership. Read more: Turkey's moribund EU accession process However, Merkel stopped short of calling for the EU and Turkey to now abandon the more than a decade-long push for Turkey to join the bloc. Many European politicians, including Austria's likely next chancellor Sebastian Kurz, have called for negotiations to be broken off. Praise for taking in refugees At the same time, Merkel also said that the European Union would keep its side of a refugee deal struck with Ankara in 2016. The deal largely stopped people traveling to Europe via Turkey in smugglers' boats to seek asylum in large numbers. "I will also make clear that Turkey is doing a great job on the refugees and that we have obligations under the EU-Turkey deal. We have promised 3 billion euros for the coming years in addition to the 3 billion that we have already committed. We need to deliver on this promise," she added. Read more: EU money can't push Syrian schoolkids over Turkey's language barrier Turkey, a country of 80 million people compared with the EU's 500 million, hosts more than 3 million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Syrians who fled the war in their country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for the EU to cut funding for Turkey linked to its bid to join the bloc. While raising concerns about the rule of law in the country, she praised Ankara’s support for refugees. As she arrived at an EU summit on Thursday, Merkel said she considered developments in Turkey “very negative” in terms of ... Read More »

German conservatives launch ‘constructive’ coalition talks

Angela Merkel's conservative bloc has begun talks on forging a three-way coalition. During the negotiations, all parties will have to find common ground on a slew of divisive issues, from immigration to climate policy. Exploratory talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) kicked off on Wednesday. "Today was a first, very constructive, good discussion that will of, course, be followed by more discussions," Peter Tauber, CDU general secretary, told reporters following a two-hour closed-door meeting. Party officials from the FDP and CSU were similarly upbeat about the talks, which aim to build Germany's first national three-party government. 'A good feeling' After failing to secure a clear majority in Germany's September elections, Merkel's conservatives are hoping to govern in an alliance with the liberal FDP and the left-leaning Greens. Tauber said he had a "good feeling" about a meeting with the Greens later in the day. The FDP and the Greens will then hold talks separately on Thursday, with over 50 people from all parties set to gather for their first joint sit-down on Friday. If this week's exploratory talks go well, the parties will move into formal coalition negotiations. The prospective alliance has been dubbed a "Jamaica" coalition because the colors of the parties involved match the Caribbean country's flag. Read more: How long will Germany have to wait for a government? Jamaica is far away "Jamaica and Germany are 8,500 kilometers apart," Nicola Beer of the FDP told reporters after the first round of talks with the CDU/CSU on Wednesday. "I think today the first few meters of that journey have gone well." Merkel has acknowledged that the talks won't be easy. There are significant policy differences between staunch conservatives in the CDU/CSU, for example, and the left faction of the Greens. To avoid a deadlock in the negotiations, all sides will likely have to compromise on a range of thorny issues, including European Union reform, action on climate change, taxation and refugee policy. No government before 2018 A number of critics in the chancellor's own bloc have called for a shift to the right after September's election saw the conservatives suffer their worst result since 1949, while the far-right Alternative for Germany party made strong gains. CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who has been highly critical of Merkel's decision to open the borders to asylum seekers in 2015, reiterated Wednesday that limiting immigration was a "very, very important" goal. That's a position the Greens strongly disagree with. Greens negotiator Jürgen Trittin has warned of growing populist tendencies in the CDU/CSU bloc, saying that their hardline demands on the refugee issue would present "massive hurdles." The distribution of ministerial posts between the parties is also expected to be a tricky point of discussion. Most analysts say it's unlikely a new government will be formed before the end of the year.

Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc has begun talks on forging a three-way coalition. During the negotiations, all parties will have to find common ground on a slew of divisive issues, from immigration to climate policy. Exploratory talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) kicked off on ... Read More »

Angela Merkel denies major damage after conservatives’ local election loss

Is Angela Merkel already under pressure less than a month after re-election? The German chancellor has fought back after her party's poor performance in Lower Saxony and the rise of a "new" conservatism in Austria. It's safe to say that October 15 won't make Angela Merkel's list of favorite days. Having led by as much as 10 percentage points in polls not that long ago, the chancellor's conservative CDU party finished second-best to the Social Democrats in Lower Saxony's regional election, causing critics to ponder whether Merkel's fortunes were on the wane. A headline in Germany's Bild newspaper termed the chancellor "seriously damaged" – an impression she sought to refute on Monday as she heads into negotiations for a broad three-party coalition to form the next government. "I – or we as the CDU, as conservatives – are going into these discussions secure in the knowledge that we're the strongest party," Merkel told reporters at party headquarters in Berlin. "I don't see the result of the Lower Saxony vote as weakening us as we tackle this task.” It was perhaps a telling near-slip of the tongue. Despite winning Germany's national election last month, the result was the CDU's worst ever in terms of percentage, which has led some critics to speculate that Merkel's moderation may be costing the party right-wing votes. Austria's simultaneous national lurch to the right after a victory by a self-branded new style of conservative, Sebastian Kurz, was also interpreted as an implicit criticism of the centrist Merkel and her welcoming stance on migrants. Both Kurz's conservatives and the right-wing populist FPÖ performed strongly. "The success of Kurz and the FPÖ can be interpreted as the opposite of Merkel's position, as a rejection of the culture of welcoming migrants," political science professor Eckhard Jesse told DW. Merkel dismissed the idea that Kurz had gotten something right that she had gotten wrong. "Our margin of victory over the second strongest party was a lot larger," Merkel said, adding that Germany's far-right populist party, the AfD, had achieved far more "modest" results then the FPÖ. Refugees a 'matter of rhetoric' Still, Merkel did seem a bit disgruntled. The longtime chancellor was no doubt hoping for a bit more momentum as she attempts to build Germany's first ever "Jamaica" coalition with the free-market FDP and the more left-wing Greens. Another question heading into Wednesday's first talks was where the CDU would position itself in that triangle. There has been speculation that after conservatives won less than 33 percent of the vote in the Bundestag election on September 24, Merkel would have no choice but to reposition her party further to the right. As if to refute that notion, the chancellor appeared in front of a backdrop with the slogan "Die Mitte," or "the center." She also said that the policy differences, particularly on the issue of migrants, between her conservatives and Kurz's party in Austria had been overestimated. "As far as differences in refugee policy are concerned, I've talked with Mr. Kurz a number of times, and they're not all that clear," Merkel said. "I think there's not much disagreement about fighting the root causes and the need to conclude an agreement with Turkey. It's more a matter of rhetoric." While Merkel would lose credibility with a dramatic shift to the right, experts say that the chancellor, who has promised there will be no repeat of the mass migration to Germany of 2015, has already tacitly begun modulating her positions. "In practice, she's already moved, but she's not going to make a big deal of it in the form of statements," Jesse explained. Still, it's going to be a tricky balancing act to mediate between the FDP's calls for more restrictive policies on migrants with the Green's more welcoming position – all the while trying to ensure that the wishes of her own party are met. An orderly transition to a post-Merkel era? Merkel stressed that she was not going into coalition talks with any preconceived notions, saying that the CDU would not be presenting any "lines in the sand." When asked which topics the CDU would be pushing, she named pensions and the needs of rural people. Otherwise, she tended to stick to issues on which there is broad consensus, like the need for more digitalization and affordable places to live in Germany, while largely avoiding the migrant topic. That may be interpreted as weakness, although Jesse cautioned against reading too much into one bad day for the chancellor. "The election in Lower Saxony was very much one of local issues," he explained. "The Jamaica coalition is not endangered. It's nonsense to act as though Merkel's position in the coalition negotiations has been weakened." But Jesse also thinks that Merkel's next moves will be conditioned by the idea that she may not want to serve out another full four year term as chancellor. "The question is how long she wants to do this," Jesse said. "I think she'll hand over power some time in the next legislative period. She'll make a surprise announcement, and the next man or woman will have a chance to show what he or she can do. I believe she'll be the first chancellor to successfully manage a transition."

Is Angela Merkel already under pressure less than a month after re-election? The German chancellor has fought back after her party’s poor performance in Lower Saxony and the rise of a “new” conservatism in Austria. It’s safe to say that October 15 won’t make Angela Merkel’s list of favorite days. Having led by as much as 10 percentage points in ... Read More »

Angela Merkel: Way clear for coalition negotiations after migration compromise

Chancellor Merkel says a compromise on migration reached with the Bavarian CSU is a good basis for exploratory talks on forming a ruling coalition with the Greens and the FDP. Talks are to begin on October 18. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday invited the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Party to separate coalition negotiations starting on Wednesday next week, after saying her Christian Democrats (CDU) had reached a viable compromise on migration with Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU). She said the CDU and CSU had "reached a common outcome that I feel is a very good basis for entering into exploratory talks with the FDP and [...] the Greens," Merkel said at a joint press conference with CSU leader Horst Seehofer in Berlin. The issue of a cap on migration has been a bone of contention for years between the two parties, with the CSU urging that just 200,000 refugees allowed into Germany each year — a limit that critics say breaches German constitutional law on refugees' rights. After long discussions on Sunday, leaders of both parties reached a compromise, agreeing to attempt to limit the influx of refugees without imposing an official cap. Thorny talks ahead? Even so, the issue is likely to cause difficulties with the Greens, who oppose any form of limitation on refugee numbers. Greens co-leader Cem Özdemir has already criticized the compromise, saying that it might be the position taken by the CDU/CSU, but was "not the position of a future government." Despite this and other remaining differences between the CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens, Merkel said on Saturday that a "Jamaica" coalition consisting of the four parties — so-called because the combination of the parties' signature colors results in the colors of the Jamaican flag — was the only realistic option to form a reliable government. This came after the Social Democrats (SPD), the current junior coalition partner, said that they wanted to go into opposition rather than again form part of a "grand coalition." So far, the schedule for exploratory talks envisages separate talks between the CDU/CSU and the FDP and the CDU/CSU and the Greens on October 18, followed by talks between FDP and Greens the following day. All parties are scheduled to convene on October 20. The four parties have all said they will not enter into any coalition with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which will send 94 deputies to the Bundestag after receiving some 13 percent of the vote in September elections.

Chancellor Merkel says a compromise on migration reached with the Bavarian CSU is a good basis for exploratory talks on forming a ruling coalition with the Greens and the FDP. Talks are to begin on October 18. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday invited the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Party to separate coalition negotiations starting on Wednesday next ... Read More »

Germany kicks off reunification celebrations in Mainz

The 27th anniversary of German reunification is being celebrated in cities across the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel took part in this year's main event in Mainz under the motto: "Together we are Germany." The city of Mainz took center stage on Tuesday as the host of the main celebrations for this year's Day of German Unity. Around 500,000 guests are expected to take part in the festival to celebrate the 27th anniversary of Germany's the peaceful reunification. With security concerns in Germany still running high, a total of 4,300 police officers have been deployed in Mainz alone for Tuesday. Read more: German reunification: Are youth in love or indifferent? German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and German parliament President Norbert Lammert attended an ecumenical service in the Mainz cathedral before heading to a ceremony in teh Rheingoldhalle convention center. Merkel, who grew up in former East Germany, said the reunification anniversary was a "day of joy" for the country and that there was a responsibility to uphold freedom at home and abroad. "We know we cannot disconnect from what's going on in the world. Rather, we must take care that globalization is constructed humanely," she said in Mainz. Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won the most votes in Germany's September 24 national election, but the vote also saw the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter German parliament for the first time. Steinmeier: 'Other walls have arisen' President Steinmeier said that since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, less visible "walls" now divide the country. The election exposed "large and small cracks" in German society, he said, calling on lawmakers to work together to fight any return to nationalism. "On September 24th, it became clear that other walls have arisen, less visible, without barbed wire and death-strips, but walls that stand in the way of our common sense of 'us'," Steinmeier said in a speech in Mainz. Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who served as Germany's foreign minister before taking on the largely ceremonial role of president in March, said that "behind these walls, a deep distrust in democracy and its representatives is being fomented." He also called for a national discussion on migration — one of the main issues that arose during the election — adding that this would mean creating new guidelines. "In my view, this means not simply wishing away migration but ... defining legal admission to Germany, which regulates and controls migration by our stipulations," Steinmeier noted. Celebrating a reunited Germany Under the motto "Together we are Germany," each of Germany's 16 states were on display, as well as a large replica of Berlin's Brandenburg gate, at a festival near the banks of the Rhine River. Read more: Eastern Germany's teenagers are still heading West Later in the afternoon, festival-goers will gather together to take part in a new national holiday tradition by singing a round of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Celebrations began on Monday with several concerts including performances from German pop star Tim Bendzko and eastern German rock band Karat. As part of Germany's national holiday, 1,000 mosques around the country have also opened up their doors to visitors – including a mosque in Cologne belonging to Germany's largest Islamic organization, DITIB.

The 27th anniversary of German reunification is being celebrated in cities across the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel took part in this year’s main event in Mainz under the motto: “Together we are Germany.” The city of Mainz took center stage on Tuesday as the host of the main celebrations for this year’s Day of German Unity. Around 500,000 guests are ... Read More »

Report: Rate of deportations stagnating in Germany

The German government is falling short of its goal to deport significantly more rejected asylum seekers, a newspaper report has found. Over 8,000 migrants have been sent back so far this year, compared to 25,000 in 2016. Within the first four months of the year, the German government has deported a significantly lower number of migrants compared to last year, according to a German newspaper report on Saturday. Citing information from Germany's federal police, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that by the end of April, a total of 8,620 rejected asylum-seekers had been sent back to their countries of origin. The figures indicated a marked stagnation compared to last year, which saw a total of 25,375 deportations. This year has also seen fewer numbers of rejected asylum-seekers who voluntarily opted to return to their countries of origin. According to police figures, only 11,195 such voluntary return trips were approved during the first four months of the year. In 2016, a total of 54,006 migrants took advantage of the volunteer return program in Germany, which covers certain costs including travel expenses. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "national effort" last year to encourage rejected asylum-seekers to return to their home countries. 'Lack of cooperation' with some countries After the recent drop-off in the number of refugee and migrant arrivals in Germany, Merkel and the premiers of Germany's 16 states declared that only those whose applications were approved were allowed to stay while all others "should leave Germany." A spokeswoman with the German interior ministry told Welt am Sonntag that the reason for the lower repatriation figures is that an exceptional amount of people returned to their countries of origin last year. "Repatriations and voluntary departures in 2016 took place to a particularly large extent in the west Balkan countries," the speaker said. Repatriations to other areas have proven to be much more difficult due to a "lack of cooperation" with other countries, the interior ministry said. The state interior ministry of Hesse told the newspaper that deportations to northern African countries have failed in the past due to the fact that some of the rejected asylum-seekers do not have travel documents. The deportation of rejected asylum-seekers from Germany has sparked several protests and political debates, particularly for those being sent back to Afghanistan. The German government had been sending Afghans back to supposed "safe" regions within their homeland. Following this week's deadly bombing in Kabul, Merkel announced on Thursday that Germany would be temporarily suspending all deportations to Afghanistan.

The German government is falling short of its goal to deport significantly more rejected asylum seekers, a newspaper report has found. Over 8,000 migrants have been sent back so far this year, compared to 25,000 in 2016. Within the first four months of the year, the German government has deported a significantly lower number of migrants compared to last year, ... Read More »

Germany’s Left party tries to distinguish itself with ambitious election platform

Germany's left-wing party vowed to pursue a higher minimum wage, raise corporate taxes and protect refugees. The Left also tried to distance itself from the SPD, while also holding out for the possibility of a coalition. Germany's Left Party unveiled its official campaign platform on Monday ahead of federal elections in September. Under the slogan of "Social Justice for All," the liberals hoped to carve out a niche for themselves in an election year characterized by a weakening of party identity across the board. "We want to take a very clear stance against the right-wing. For us there are no upper limits. The right to asylum is not negotiable," said party co-chair Bernd Riexinger in Berlin, making it very clear that the "for all" part of their slogan included Germany's many new arrivals as well. Other key points in the Left's platform included raising the minimum wage from 8.84 euros to 12 euros ($9.42 to $12.78), imposing regulations on landlords seeking to raise rents, and ending Germany two-tier healthcare system that has both a public and private option in favor of a more "equal" program. They also want to halt all weapons exports Riexinger also sought to contrast the Left party as much as possible with the Social Democrats (SPD), the center-left mainstream party who, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), have made up the core of German politics since the end of World War II. Left tries to have it both ways with SPD Indeed, one of the major issues in this year's election is that after four years of a grand coalition between the SPD and CDU, increased prosperity and agreement on a number of key issues, Germany's political parties are struggling to highlight their differences from other another. In that vein, Reixinger said that "the biggest difference between us and the SPD is in our tax policy." The Left wants to close loopholes and increase taxes on business and the wealthy, which they hope will help fund some of their more ambitious programs like a universal basic income and massive investment in education and digital infrastructure. As the SPD moves away from Merkel and closer to the left wing of the party under chancellor candidate Martin Schulz, the Left is struggling to hold on to its eight percent poll numbers as newcomers the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other smaller parties like the Greens carve up some of its territory. In Germany, parties need at least five percent of the vote to hold seats in parliament. The Left party has hinted that it would be interested in ruling in coalition with the Green party and the SPD, should the possibility present itself in September. However, speaking on German public television on Monday morning, Left party lawmaker Dietmar Bartsch dismissed coalition plotting as "annoying" for voters, and said "every party should fight for itself."

Germany’s left-wing party vowed to pursue a higher minimum wage, raise corporate taxes and protect refugees. The Left also tried to distance itself from the SPD, while also holding out for the possibility of a coalition. Germany’s Left Party unveiled its official campaign platform on Monday ahead of federal elections in September. Under the slogan of “Social Justice for All,” ... Read More »

Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz lays out vision for chancellery

The ex-European Parliament president has vowed to tackle gender pay gaps, calling them one of the greatest injustices. He further discussed defense spending, executive pay and tax cuts in a German newspaper interview. Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has discussed some of his policy goals in an interview published by the German weekly "Bild am Sonntag," offering insight into how he plans to challenge Angela Merkel for Germany's top political job. "I would tackle two things directly: the clear commitment to strengthening the European Union and the abolition of one of the greatest injustices: that women for the same work earn less than men," Schutz said. Germany has one of the highest pay gaps in the EU, with a wage discrepancy of over 20 percent between men and women. The politician with the center-left SPD added that his policy will be geared towards the work and life of ordinary citizens. Schulz, who served as European Parliament president from 2012 and stepped down earlier this year, also vowed to curb executive pay. He has made social justice issues a key part of his pitch for leading the country. "I promise that, as chancellor, I will implement a law limiting managers' pay in my agenda for the first 100 days in office," he told "Bild am Sonntag." Schulz said he does not intend to offer tax cuts after German recorded a record-breaking budget surplus amounting to more than 20 billion euros ($21.62 billion). Instead, he says he would use the excess cash for education and infrastructure projects. 'We owe it to our soldiers' Schulz said he wanted to increase defense spending, saying Germany's armed forces known as the Bundeswehr needed more money and should receive it. "We owe it to our soldiers that they are optimally equipped," Schulz said in the interview. However, he stopped short of calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the armed forces, in contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has vowed to go forward with a significant increase in defense spending. Defense spending has become a major subject of debate ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for September after US President Donald Trump's administration warned NATO member states of possible fallout if they failed to meet a 2 percent of GDP target. However, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a member of Schulz' party, has questioned how the target should be assessed, arguing it should include aid and development programs. Schulz said Germany and other European nations needed to work together to stem crises instead of solely pouring money into defense. Meanwhile, the ex-European Parliament president said Gabriel, who stepped out of the race for the German chancellery, would "certainly be part of the federal government." He said Gabriel has done a "super job" as foreign minister. Polls have shown a narrowing gap between Schulz's SPD and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the run-up to the Bundestag elections.

The ex-European Parliament president has vowed to tackle gender pay gaps, calling them one of the greatest injustices. He further discussed defense spending, executive pay and tax cuts in a German newspaper interview. Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has discussed some of his policy goals in an interview published by the German weekly “Bild am Sonntag,” offering insight ... Read More »

Diplomatic row between Europe and Turkey escalates further

Turkey has slammed the EU for siding with the Netherlands in a diplomatic dispute, after banning the Dutch ambassador from the country. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel rejected Ankara's accusations of supporting terrorists. Despite Brussels warning Ankara to avoid "exacerbating" the situation over Turkey's demands to hold political rallies in the EU, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at the Netherlands on Tuesday, by holding them responsbile for Europe's worst mass killing since World War II, Referring to a Dutch battalion of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to halt the slaughter by Bosnian Serb forces of thousands of Muslim men and boys in eastern Bosnia in 1995, Erdogan said: "We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there." Merkel 'supporting terrorists' Speaking at an event in Ankara, Erdogan also attacked German Chancellor Merkel for her public backing of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with the Netherlands. The spat began when Holland refused to let Turkish ministers hold political rallies there ahead of a referendum in Turkey to be held on April 16. German authorities have also taken measures to limit such rallies but, to a lesser extent. Erdogan accused Merkel on Tuesday of attacking Turkey the same way Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to Turkish disperse protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. The Turkish President said Merkel was "no different from the Netherlands," and urged emigre Turks to not vote for "the government and the racists" in upcoming European elections. "Europe is too important a continent to be abandoned to the mercy of the bandit states," Erdogan said. Nazi slurs Previously, Erdogan accused the German chancellor of "supporting terrorists," after saying that both Germany and Netherlands acted like Nazis. "Mrs Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? Why are you not doing anything?" Erdogan said in an interview, accusing her of refusing to respond to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert meanwhile said that the accusations against her were clearly "absurd." "The chancellor has no intention of taking part in a game of provocation," he added. NATO chief: Dutch and Turkish allies should battle external threats Dutch head to polls amid row with Turkey Rotterdam keeps cool head in Netherlands-Turkey dispute The Turkish referendum The Netherlands responded angrily to Erdogan's repeated claims of Nazism over the referendum dispute. The country, Germany's neighbor, was bombed and occupied by German forces during World War II. "Nazism, we can call this Neo-nazism. A new Nazism tendency," Erdogan said again on Monday. His aggressive rhetoric comes with just one month to go to the referendum date. Expatriate Turkish voters could make all the difference in the plebiscite that, if passed, would greatly expand Erdogan's powers. Escalating conflict The standoff with the Netherlands meanwhile led to a complete halt in the diplomatic relationship between the two nations. Turkey banned the Dutch ambassador from the country and stopped all high-level political discussions. The escalation came on the eve of general elections in the Netherlands. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim meanwhile also threatened to cancel the refugee deal struck between Turkey and the European Union one year ago, which has helped in keeping the number of migrants arriving in Germany and elsewhere in Europe at bay. On Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte said that the measures taken by Turkey so far were "not too bad." "On the other hand, I continue to find it bizarre that in Turkey they're talking about sanctions when you see that we have reasons to be very angy about what happened this weekend," he added. Updated travel advisories The German Foreign Ministry meanwhile updated its travel advisory on Turkey, saying that Germans there should be worried about "heightened political tensions and protests that could be directed at Germans." The revision also recommends that German visitors to Turkey "stay away from political gatherings and from larger groups of people in general." The Netherlands followed suit and also revised their travel advice for Turkey, urging Dutch citizens visiting Turkey to exercise caution. "There have been diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands," the ministry wrote. "Be alert and avoid large crowds."

Turkey has slammed the EU for siding with the Netherlands in a diplomatic dispute, after banning the Dutch ambassador from the country. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel rejected Ankara’s accusations of supporting terrorists. Despite Brussels warning Ankara to avoid “exacerbating” the situation over Turkey’s demands to hold political rallies in the EU, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at the Netherlands ... Read More »

Merkel: ‘Only if Europe is doing well, will Germany be doing well’

Ahead of meeting her fellow European leaders at a summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated her government's call for unity in the EU. Brexit should be a wake up call for the bloc, Merkel said. Addressing parliament on Thursday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Brussels "spring summit would usually focus on the economy," but, in light of Brexit and the refugee crisis, other topics would also be on the agenda. Faced with the reluctance of some Eastern European members to cede national freedoms to Brussels so soon after shaking off Soviet rule, Merkel said the Union can "progress without excluding the EU members." The EU is a great "success story," Merkel said, adding that the UK's impending exit from the 28-member bloc should be a "wake up call" for the Union. Highlighting the economic growth in the EU, the chancellor warned Germany that the country will prosper, "only if Europe is doing well." According to the EU's statistics office, Eurostat, Greece was the only member state to be in negative territory in the last quarter of 2016, with GDP declining by 1.1 percent compared to the last quarter of the previous year. EU defense against protectionism Turing to transatlantic matters, Merkel praised the EU's CETA trade agreement with Canada, as she urged Europe avoid "isolating itself." In an indirect attack on the protectionist course of US President Donald Trump, Merkel added that the EU would defend itseld against "unfair" protectionism. With regard to the refugee crisis, the chancellor admitted that "there is no doubt that we have made progress, but the EU's asylum system needs to be reformed." Reflecting on the situation of refugees in Greece, she said there is "nothing to gloss over." 'Nazi comparisons must stop' Despite an ongoing diplomatic dispute with Ankara over the cancellation of referendum rallies in Germany, Merkel also defended the refugee agreement with Turkey. "Without such agreements, we would have to accept illegal migration, which would not help anyone," she said, adding that the relationship between the two countries is "difficult but important." However, referring to accusations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Berlin was using "Nazi tactics," Merkel said the comments were so misplaced that it was impossible to comment on them. "It cannot be justified. Nazi comparisons only lead to misery. This needs to stop," she said. Erdogan made the comment after several German municipalities canceled events in which Turkish Cabinet ministers had planned to address rallies in Germany in support of a controversial referendum on April 16. A "yes" vote on constitutional reform would expand the powers of the Turkish president. About 1.4 million people of Turkish descent living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum. #FreeDeniz In light of the arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel last month, Merkel went on to criticize the restriction of press freedom in Turkey, vowing that the German government would work to ensure that Yucel is released. But it was not in the interest of Germany to break off contact with Turkey, the chancellor said, adding that "we want to live with our basic values as we think fit." Amid concerns over tensions between right-wing Turks in Germany and supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), however, Merkel said: "We want to do everything we can to ensure that non-Turkic conflicts are brought into this co-existence. This is a matter close to our heart." Turks are "part of our country, and they contribute to the prosperity of our country," she said.

Ahead of meeting her fellow European leaders at a summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated her government’s call for unity in the EU. Brexit should be a wake up call for the bloc, Merkel said. Addressing parliament on Thursday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Brussels “spring summit would usually focus on the economy,” but, in ... Read More »

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