French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Ankara on Friday (25 February) confirmed opposition to Turkey's EU accession bid and, combined with Germany's resistance, appeared to indicate that the country's relations with the EU have hit an all-time low.
Turkey made no secret of its disappointment with Sarkozy's five-hour visit, described as "offensive" by the Turkish press due to its short length and the messages delivered.
In Ankara, Sarkozy spelt out France's "red lines" in the debate over Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
"I think that it is better to talk things through now rather than to one day reach a dead end," said Sarkozy at a joint press conference with Turkey's President Abdullah Gül. "All countries have red lines. All countries have a public. Discussion is needed to reach an agreement. We will continue to seek ways for the future."
"I have always considered […] that there is a way between an accession perspective and cancelling any kind of discussion to bring closer together Turkey, a huge country, and the European Union," Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy's visit to Turkey was the first since his election in 2007 and the first visit by a French president in 19 years.
Sarkozy also met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. At the insistence of Paris, the talks focused on the French Presidency of the G20, of which Turkey is a member, and French proposals to reshape the world economic order ahead of a summit this autumn in Cannes.
Chewing gum tit-for-tat
Many press reports focused on Sarkozy reportedly having chewed gum upon arrival at the airport, which in Turkish eyes is seen as outright offensive to the country.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, a colourful figure in Turkey, responded by chewing gum himself when he was at the airport once again to see Sarkozy off just a few hours after his arrival.
According to the daily Zaman, this was not the first time Sarkozy had angered Turkish officials by chewing gum. He reportedly had gum in his mouth when he greeted President Gül in Paris in 2009.
'Yes to integration, no to assimilation'
On a visit to Germany, where he is to join German Chancellor Angela Merkel today (28 February) for the inauguration of the CeBit information technology fair in Hanover, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an accused Merkel of opposing his country's EU membership aspirations in order to score political points with German voters.
Erdo?an told the daily Rheinische Post that he believed EU accession talks were "being delayed for purely political reasons".
Speaking on Sunday to a crowd of 10,000 mainly Turkish residents living in Germany, Erdo?an appeared to hit back at Merkel's recent criticism of what she saw as a failure by the Turkish community to integrate into German society.
Last October, Merkel said that Germany's attempt to create a multicultural society had "utterly failed". She said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side-by-side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims. Most of them are Turks who immigrated in the sixties and seventies as "guest workers".
"I say yes to integration. We must integrate into society," Erdo?an is quoted by Deutsche Welle as saying, before adding: "No-one should be able to rip us away from our culture. Our children must learn German but, first, they must learn Turkish."
But German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle contradicted Erdo?an, DPA reported.
“Children growing up in Germany must learn German first and foremost,” Westerwelle said. Otherwise he said they would be disadvantaged at school and have worse chances later in life.
“'The German language is the key to integration for those growing up in Germany,” the foreign minister stressed.