[JURIST] German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official profile] on Monday maintained that Turkey should become a European Union (EU) "preferred partner" rather than continue as a candidate [EU materials] country for EU accession. Turkey has only opened 12 of the 35 chapters toward accession to the EU [criteria materials], and continues to face diplomatic challenges that compromise its bid towards accession. In particular, Turkey has yet to resolve its relation to Cyprus, and Merkel urged [N-TV report, in German] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] to open Turkey's ports to vessels from Cyprus and take steps towards a conciliatory solution to the impasse on the island. Merkel also exhorted Turkey to agree [Hurriyet report] to increase sanctions for Iranian nuclear development and toned down prior discussions on teaching Turkish in the German school system. On Friday, after talks with EU officials in Brussels, the Turkish chief negotiator for Turkish accession to the EU, Egemen Bagis, rejected [SETimes report] the German proposal for a "preferred partnership."
Germany is the country with the largest community of Turkish emigres, with an estimated 2.5 million, and Turkey is one of its largest trading partners. Germany is also one of the staunchest opponents among EU members to Turkish EU membership. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward accession. Turkish human rights and foreign relations are reportedly compromising the country's efforts toward EU accession, receiving mixed reviews [press release; JURIST report] in October in the European Commission's annual reports on enlargement strategy and candidate progress [reports, PDF]. Last May, an EU advisory council said that Turkey should do more [JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights, and various other efforts in order to further its request for accession.