Faction hopes to overhaul Germany's foreign policy

Posted in Other | 06-Jun-05 | Author: Judy Dempsey| Source: International Herald Tribune

Dr. Friedbert Pflüger
BERLIN A German government led by Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats would recast its foreign policy by slowing down the expansion of the European Union, adopting a much more critical stance toward Russia and rebuilding its relationship with the United States, according to a key adviser.

"The no votes in France and the Netherlands have shown, among other things that there is a deep crisis over the idea of enlargement," said Friedbert Pflüger, foreign affairs spokesman for the parliamentary faction of the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the conservative Christian Social Union.

"It is absolutely necessary that the EU consolidates and defines its identity and borders," Pflüger said in a wide-ranging interview devoted to foreign policy. "We want a very close relationship with Turkey. It is a very important NATO partner. But full membership of Turkey would overstretch and overburden the EU. We believe that a privileged partnership would be better."

The Christian Democrats under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl had enthusiastically embraced the enlargement of the EU, which more than a year ago expanded to 25 countries from 15, with eight of the new member states coming from former Communist Eastern Europe.

The EU recently signed accession treaties with Romania and Bulgaria, and they could join by 2007. Pflüger said the party would review the progress of both countries. The party would also support Croatia's membership bid, although formal negotiations have been delayed until Croatia hands over accused war criminals to the International Court in The Hague.

"After that, further enlargement would be off the agenda," Pflüger said. "There would be a need for internal consolidation."

For the Christian Democrats, the commitment toward a wider and deeper Europe has lost its appeal, particularly over Turkey.

The EU is planning to start accession negotiations with Turkey in October, but Pflüger said his party, if it wins elections that are expected to take place in September, would oppose giving Turkey full membership rights.

The Christian Democrats oppose full membership for several reasons. One branch of the party says that because Europe is a essentially a Christian club, Turkey, an Islamic nation, does not belong in it.

Others are concerned that Turkey's sheer size would make it too difficult to integrate. Turkey's population of more than 69.5 million is expected to increase to 80 million by 2015 when it could be ready to join the EU. That would give Turkey powerful voting rights inside the EU council that represents all the member states and where critical decisions are made.

Others fear the large financial costs for integrating Turkey, which has an underdeveloped infrastructure, a large agricultural sector and long borders with Iraq and Syria that would demand much greater security for what would be the European Union's new external frontiers.

None of these considerations, however, have dented Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's support for Turkish membership to the EU, an action the United States has also endorsed.

With regard to relations with the United States, Pflüger said the Christian Democrats would take issue with the Americans over the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which Washington has refused to ratify, as well as the International Criminal Court, which Washington has staunchly opposed.

"We will always try to convince our American friends that multilateral agreements are of use," Pflüger said.

Russia will also pose a foreign policy challenge for the Christian Democrats since previous governments, regardless of the political party in power, have had a special relationship with the Kremlin.

Schröder, however, has cultivated particularly close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

"Russia is an important country, not only for Germany," Pflüger said. "We do business with Russia not only in energy but in other fields.

"We want to continue this. But it does not mean we label Putin as a 100 percent democrat as Mr. Schröder has done," he said. "It does not mean we keep silent on the Yukos trial, which was a political trial, or on Chechnya."