German coalition to keep distance from Turkey due to domestic pressure

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published

A draft document issued at the end of exploratory talks between Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) to form a coalition ruled out opening any new chapters in Turkey's European Union membership bid, visa liberalization and an updated customs union, in the face of growing domestic pressure.

The 28-page document, obtained by Daily Sabah, suggests that in Turkey, "the situation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights has deteriorated. Therefore, we do not want to close chapters in the accession negotiations and open new ones."

Furthermore, the possible grand coalition between the CDU and the SPD expressed opposition to visa liberalization and an updated customs union. "As long as Turkey does not fulfill the necessary obligations, there can be no visa liberalization or an updating of the customs union."At a time when Ankara and Berlin have built a new way of approaching each other after the two countries clashed over a variety of issues from terrorism to human rights violations, the final document of the exploratory talks for the grand coalition reflects a different reality.

Berlin, which has been demanding the release of all German citizens imprisoned in Turkey, has now once again stressed that a full normalization in relations is not possible until some conditions are met, as the German public remains disturbed by the Turkish government.

Following the release of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and two other German nationals whose name were not disclosed, German citizen Meşale Tolu was released last month. That being said, German journalist Deniz Yücel has remained in pretrial detention since last year. The German government places great emphasis on his release.

Çavuşoğlu, indeed, has been at the forefront in exerting efforts to mend ties with Germany. Joining hands with his counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, Çavuşoğlu first invited him to Antalya, his hometown, and then traveled to the German city of Goslar, Gabriel's hometown, to conduct closer diplomacy.

Even though the grand coalition draft portrays a negative picture on the conditions of visa-free travel and the upgrade of the customs union, the formation of a new government may change the picture. Çavuşoğlu said this week that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to either invite German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Turkey or himself pay a visit to Germany.

Moreover, the possible release of German journalist Yücel may well clear the way for a return to the good times in the centuries-old Turkish-German relationship. The breakthrough in the CDU-SPD exploratory talks was a tiny first step.

On the other hand, some concrete steps may be needed from Berlin. Turkey's disgruntlement with Germany on the issues of tolerance of terrorist groups such as the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) may require the latter to ramp up the level of collaboration.

While around 14,000 PKK sympathizers are estimated to be sheltering in Germany, more than 700 Gülenists have fled the country since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Ankara, in response, demands the extradition of top terrorist figures from Berlin, a request which has gone unheeded so far.

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