In my column dated April 24, I noted that Turkey's relations with the European Union had reached a turning point and warned that Ankara would reconsider the membership process unless Brussels took some concrete steps. At the time, I was motivated by the fact that the relationship was being poisoned at an unprecedented level. To be clear, it wasn't just that the EU was unwilling to deliver its promises to Turkey regarding financial assistance to Syrian refugees and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
Ahead of the April 16 constitutional referendum in Turkey, European governments, including Germany and the Netherlands, broke diplomatic conventions. A Turkish cabinet minister was detained in a vehicle for more than six hours. Meanwhile, the German government and others open their doors to fugitive soldiers who had been involved in last summer's coup attempt.
The high-level dialogue that the Turks had expected to happen since then took place in Brussels last week, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Donald Tusk, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the margins of the NATO summit.
Based on statements by Turkish officials to the press, it appears that President Erdoğan's meeting with Mr. Macron was quite friendly and productive. Meanwhile, the tripartite meeting between the Turkish leader, Mr. Tusk and Mr. Juncker resulted in an agreement to repair Turkey-EU relations. In the words of Mr. Erdoğan, the Turks maintained that "we must leave behind what happened during the referendum campaign." As a result, the leaders agreed to develop a 12-month road map to revive relations.
The question on everyone's mind is whether this air of optimism could make a real change in Turkey-EU relations. It is difficult to suggest that it would, provided that Germany remains the most serious obstacle in our path. Keeping in mind that Berlin remains the driving force behind the European Union, it would be unrealistic to believe that Turkey's membership bid can be revived in the absence of concrete improvements in Turkish-German relations.
To be clear, there aren't a lot of reasons to believe that Turkey's relationship with Germany will take a turn for the better. Although President Erdoğan received the German chancellor in Brussels, the Turks did not release a statement about the meeting, a sign that things didn't go well. Meanwhile, the Germans have refused to engage the Turkish government after the referendum, even though many other nations, which were equally hostile toward Mr. Erdoğan during the campaign, swallowed their pride and pledged to work with Ankara.
A quick look at the state of Turkish-German relations reveals that tensions aren't a temporary glitch but a permanent trait. The fact that Germany continued to shelter soldiers who played a part in last summer's coup attempt and members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) after the referendum frustrated the Turks.
In response to Berlin's complicity with the Gülenists, Turkey denied permission to a group of German parliamentarians who wanted to visit their country's troops stationed at the İncirlik military base. When the German government warned that they would start looking into alternative military bases unless the Parliament's request was approved, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made it clear that Turkey would not backtrack, saying that it was "their call."
At the meeting in Brussels, Turkish and German leaders found a way to resolve the crisis over İncirlik. The Turks stated that it would allow German parliamentarians to visit the base, with the exception of those who are openly supportive of the PKK, which Turkey and the European Union consider a terrorist organization. Over the next weeks, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Germany will work together to draft a list of parliamentarians who will be permitted to visit İncirlik.
The fact that the İncirlik crisis has been resolved, however, does not necessary mean that the relationship is back on track. It is important to note that Mrs. Merkel continues to poison her country's relations with Turkey by providing a safe haven to coup plotters.
"There is no reason to believe that the Turkish-German relations will fully recover from recent tensions," senior Turkish officials maintain, "until the German elections are over."
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