(Vatican Radio) Germany's government has cast doubt on Turkey's chances of joining the European Union, amid growing tensions with Ankara over human rights and Turkey's claim that it's being treated unfairly by countries in western Europe. The comments by the German foreign minister came as an estimated crowd of at least 30,000 Turkish Kurds gathered in the German city of Frankfurt over the weekend to protest against the constitutional reforms sought by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
Kurdish Turks, many carrying banned symbols and banners sympathetic to Kurdish political groups marched against Erdogan through the streets of Frankfurt, closely watched by a large police force. The protesters demanded a ‘NO’ vote to proposed changes in Turkey's constitution that would extend President Erdogan's powers. “First of all we demand freedom for [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK politician Abdullah Ocalan and then for the oppressed Kurdish people," a female protester said. "And of course we want to raise our voice against Erdogan and his referendum in April. We are strictly against it.”
Turkey condemned the gathering as “unacceptable” and accused Germany of hypocrisy for allowing it. Yet, the Kurdish protesters aren't along in expressing concern over Erdogan's policies.
Germany and neighboring Netherlands have been outraged over his remarks comparing their behaviour to those of the
Nazis during World War Two. Erdogan made those comments after the two countries blocked Ankara ministers who wanted to campaign among Turkish immigrants for a 'YES' vote in the upcoming referendum.
Amid the controversy and concerns over a crackdown on journalists and civil servants in Turkey, senior German officials have cast doubt Turkey's chances of joining the European Union.
In an interview published by German weekly Der Spiegel, Germany's foreign minister suggested that for now the
most that Turkey can hope for is to one day achieve a "privileged partnership" with the 28-nation bloc.
In Sigmar Gabriel's words: "Turkey is further away than ever before from EU membership."
It also remains unclear which German chancellor will soon have to deal with Turkey, after the center-left Social Democratic Party unanimously elected Martin Schulz on Sunday as the party's top candidate.
Polls show he may provide a serious challenge to current leader Angela Merkel in the country's upcoming general election.
Schultz has vowed to fight populism if his party wins the September vote, amid concerns over rising far-right and nationalist parties in Germany and other European Union nations.