Turks and Germans have shared undeniable links for over five generations. The largest Turkish immigrant population is in Germany, with around 3.5 million people and nearly half of them hold German citizenship. There are a multitude of German companies investing in Turkey, and Germans usually rank among the top three in terms of annual foreign tourist arrivals in Turkey.
Yet, another feature of Germany that distinguishes it from the rest of Europe is that it has opened its doors to some 1.2 million refugees, including nearly 800,000 Syrians. In addition, Germany, the dynamo of Europe, has taken steps to ensure the survival of the European Union after Brexit.
Besides the fact that Germany, where the average age of the population has reached 47, gave priority to qualified immigrants due to its obvious need for labor force, it was a praiseworthy move nonetheless. In comparison, the U.K. and the likes could not even be bothered to accept 20,000 refugees.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's approval rating took a hit when she ignored mounting pressure from inside the country and decided to go ahead with the decision to take in the refugees anyway.
The recent invitation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will also be marked as a challenge in Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's political careers.
In my opinion, no other media in the European Union has striven to demonize Erdoğan more than the German press. They try to maintain the illusion of neutrality by mentioning a favorable aspect in at least one out of ten views. However, German media had already launched a negative campaign days before Erdoğan set foot in the country. They ran headlines like "Erdoğan not welcome," or referred to the closed-down Taraf newspaper, a propaganda machine for the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
It was almost impossible to read anything in the news other than the words of the supporters and advocates of the terrorist organization PKK or of Can Dündar, who has been issued an arrest warrant for publishing false news and disclosing state secrets.
I am sure Erdoğan was following all this with hidden delight because the Turkish president, who was hosted on the highest level in Germany and given a state banquet in his honor by Steinmeier, achieved all this without compromising on the policies that Germany complained about. Moreover, Erdoğan, who has not been given the right to address the public in Germany for two consecutive years, ended this embargo with his speech, which he started by thanking the German government, during the inauguration of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) Cologne Central Mosque on the last day of his visit.
In that sense, not Erdoğan, but Germany has come a long way to find a happy medium. Erdoğan could not have refused. During his parliamentary opening speech when he returned home, Erdoğan summarized the latest developments by saying: "We are slowly leaving behind the troubled process we were experiencing with Europe. We hope to solve the problems between us and the U.S. and develop relations in political and economic spheres in line with the spirit of a strategic partnership."
I would like to list some of the reasons underlying this new situation that has arisen with Germany. First of all, both countries are troubled by U.S. President Donald Trump's "trade wars" and the Iranian embargo, and they are determined to fight together. Second, Germany, which accepted the highest number of refugees in Europe, is unable to accept a new wave and, as the Idlib consensus shows, it needs Turkey's initiative in Syria. In that sense, the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Merkel and Erdoğan will meet at the "Istanbul Summit" to discuss the Syrian issue this month will be an important turning point. Third, the U.S. is increasing pressure on Germany, who imports natural gas from Russia and is involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Trump's lambasting statements against Germany during both the NATO and U.N. summits have accompanied Berlin's rapprochement with Turkey, which is in a similar position.
The most challenging issue to overcome in Turkish-German relations is undoubtedly the fact that Germany has embraced and given asylum to senior FETÖ members, including soldiers who were directly involved in the 2016 coup attempt, and thousands of wanted PKK members. We will see if this major stumbling block can be handled with a fine and patient diplomacy.
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