BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union may not be able to accept Turkey as a member, German parties negotiating a coalition government have said, while making clear the EU's "privileged relationship" with Ankara should be developed further.
In a paper on foreign policy, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) describe EU membership talks with Turkey as "open-ended". A coalition panel led by Merkel is expected approve the paper on Tuesday.
The wording is slightly tougher than the language in a 2005 coalition contract between the parties. That document, put together shortly after EU membership talks with Turkey began, said Germany had a "special interest" in deepening ties with Turkey and linking it to the EU, without explicitly supporting or rejecting full membership.
Since then, public support in Turkey for joining the EU has slumped and German doubts about Ankara's candidacy have grown, following the Turkish government's crackdown on protests earlier this year.
"If the EU is not in a position to accept (new members) or if Turkey is not able to fully meet the criteria for membership, Turkey should be bound closer to European structures, allowing it to further develop the privileged relationship it enjoys with the EU and Germany," reads the paper, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have long been wary about allowing a largely Muslim country of 76 million people into the EU. But the SPD has supported the idea; talks on Turkey's joining began under Merkel's SPD predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
Earlier this month, Turkey and the EU began a new round of membership negotiations. The start of the talks had been delayed since June, after Germany and several other EU governments blocked them. They cited Ankara's response to the protests, when six people were killed and 8,000 injured.
"The talks that began in 2005 with the goal of membership are an open-ended process, with no automatism and a result that cannot be guaranteed beforehand," the coalition document reads.
(This story has been refiled to added dropped letter in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Larry King)