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German finance minister says Turkey is not part of Europe

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Wednesday Turkey should not join the European Union as it was not part of Europe, bluntly underlining Berlin’s opposition to the long-running membership bid.

Germany pressed the 28-member bloc to delay a new round of membership talks last week, in response to Ankara’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Brussels postponed the discussions for at least four months, but said the path to Turkey’s membership was still open.

“We should not accept Turkey as a full member … Turkey is not part of Europe,” Schaeuble said at an election rally by his and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) party in the western German city of Duesseldorf.

Germany and France have always had concerns about allowing a largely Muslim country of 76 million people into the bloc, fearing that Turkey’s cultural differences and its size will make it too difficult to integrate.

Merkel’s critics have accused her of making a show of her opposition to Turkey’s membership to curry favour with conservative voters before elections, scheduled for September.

Turkey became an associate of the bloc in the 1960s but accession talks launched in 2005 got bogged down in a dispute over Cyprus, an EU member, and opposition from Paris and Berlin.

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