Turkey’s Relations with Germany are being Tested

In a recent interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın admitted that at the moment Turkey’s relations with Germany are not at the desired level.

Indeed, the two partners, Berlin and Ankara, have had a lot of grievances against each other in recent years. Although Germany had been the main “defender” of Turkey’s interests in the EU, it should nevertheless not be forgotten that this position of the federal government was directly linked to the Social Democratic-Green coalition staying in power. However, with the Christian Democrats replacing them for a prolonged stay in power the relations between the two countries have been severely tested, and the influence of the Turkish lobby in the European Union has been significantly undermined. While the Schroder government had previously supported Ankara in one way or another on the issue of Turkish membership in the EU, Merkel would more than once successfully exploit the anti-Turkish sentiment of Germans in the battle for votes, becoming an active supporter of the idea of an expanded “privileged” partnership of Turkey with the EU instead of its full membership in the organization. This explains much of Ankara’s coolness towards Merkel and Germany as a whole.

This fissure in relations between Berlin and Ankara intensified after Turkey finally realized that it was unlikely to become a member of the EU, and its hoplesss presence the “waiting line” for EU membership since 1987 was a direct result of the German resistance.

The discontent in Germany, where more than three million Turks live, is largely due to the reluctance of many migrants to integrate into German society. The Bundestag believes that part of the blame for this lies with President Erdoğan and his entourage, who have repeatedly urged German Turks to preserve their native language, faith and traditions.

However, some blame lies with the German authorities themselves, who made a serious mistake by allowing the Turks to settle close to each other. Because of this, many of them live in a kind of parallel world, communicating only with their compatriots and not trying to learn German. Because of the language barrier, some Turkish teenagers often drop out of school to subsequently fill unemployment liines. However, there is another trend: the children and grandchildren of Turkish migrants, having received a good German education, return to Turkey, where they receive higher salaries and build successful careers.

The Turkish diaspora in Germany, as in Europe as a whole, is not only viewed with suspicion in Berlin. We must not forget that almost half of the imams in these countries are Turks. Turkish mosques are being actively built in various countries, from the Netherlands to Belgium. Sermons in Turkish mosques are given exclusively in Turkish. In addition, Turkish schools and madrasas are being actively built in European countries. Turkish ministers are running political campaigns in Europe, addressing the diaspora. And Erdoğan himself is constantly addressing members of the diaspora. Even now, the Turkish population in Western Europe exceeds that of countries such as Hungary, Sweden or Portugal. And Erdoğanэs influence is no different!

The Turkish leader has repeatedly asked Berlin to show more solidarity towards the Turks living in the country, accusing German authorities of doing too little to integrate the minority. In particular, Berlin opposes dual citizenship that Ankara insists on. The Turkish president is also unhappy about the partial continuation of the visa regime between the countries, while Germans themselves can travel to Turkey unhindered (they only need to show their internal passport at the border, while Turks need a visa to travel to Germany). This, incidentally, was used by German jihadists who travelled through Turkey to fight for DAESH fighters (a movement banned in the Russian Federation) in Syria and Iraq, which is unsettling for the German government.

Berlin’s criticism of Turkey’s human rights abuses in the country during the suppression of the military rebellion in 2016, as well as after the German parliament passed a resolution recognizing the 1915 Armenian Genocide, has also irritated bilateral relations.

Risking his partnership with Germany, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly made highly controversial remarks about the German authorities, undercutting the ground he is sitting on, as Germany is Turkey’s biggest trading partner. Germany accounts for about 10% of Turkey’s exports, which in absolute terms amounts to EUR 14bn (the UK being the second largest importer of Turkish goods, with Iraq coming in third by a wide margin). If you look at the list of goods that Turkey imports, it is even more dependent on Germany than any other country: equipment, electrical engineering and chemical products – a large proportion of which are produced by highly specialized German companies. Germany, for its part, buys primarily textiles from Turkey, the republic’s biggest export commodity, and food, which is the most expensive of Turkish exports. However, Germany could easily replace Turkey as a supplier. While Germany is Turkey’s number one trading partner, the Republic of Turkey is only ranked 13th on Germany’s equivalent list. An important feature of Turkish-German economic relations is the large number of German subsidiaries operating in Turkey, more than 6,000 – more than in any other country.

Because Turkish imports far exceed exports, the country regularly runs a trade deficit, which Ankara is trying to patch up through tourism, one of the most important sectors of the Turkish economy, where Germany has once again overtaken other European partners of Turkey (around 15% of all tourist traffic is linked to Germany).

Ankara has certainly pinned its EU integration hopes on a change of government in the FRG. However, the obstacles for Turkey have not gone anywhere. In October last year, the European Commission noted in a report that Ankara’s accession to the EU was “at a standstill” because of serious democratic deficiencies in the Turkish system. In particular, the EU’s serious concerns stem from the continuing deterioration in the areas of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary. There has been a further setback in many areas, the EU report said.

Therefore, even with the current Social Democratic-dominated coalition in Germany, consisting of the Greens, the Liberals and the Social Democrats, one can hardly expect relations between the two countries to improve quickly and radically. After all, Olaf Scholz will have to adhere to Brussels’ position in his views, including on relations with Turkey, and the need for reforms demanded by the EU from Ankara in a number of areas that are simply not possible, because Turkey’s level of external and internal threats differs significantly from those for the EU.

By Vladimir Danilov
Source: New Eastern Outlook

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