Back in 1963, Turkey signed an association agreement (the so-called Ankara Agreement) with the European Economic Community. Although it applied for official EC membership in 1987, it did not receive the status of an accession candidate until December 1999. On October 3, 2005, the EU foreign ministers finally agreed to hold accession negotiations over a period of ten to fifteen years. After this period, the EU is supposed to determine whether Turkey qualifies for membership and whether the EU is capable of admitting it. The debate in Germany on Turkey’s potential EU membership has often been heated and emotionally charged. Whereas Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) stressed Turkey's strategic significance for the EU and its possible role as a mediator between Europe and the Muslim world, the leader of the opposition, Angela Merkel (CDU), introduced the concept of a “privileged partnership” for Turkey – in place of full EU membership.
The photo shows Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (left) on a state visit to Ankara together with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, hangs in the background. Photo: Bernd Kühler