German President Joachim Gauck's official visit to Turkey and his words set the stage for diplomatic polemics between the two countries' leaders. He first paid a visit to the presidential palace in Çankaya.
During a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül, he criticized the Turkish government for its domestic affairs. Gül responded to this by reminding him of the racist attacks to which the Turkish diaspora in Germany is exposed. Gauck pursued the same discourse while he delivered a speech at a local university.
This time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded, saying he comprehensively acquainted Gauck with developments in Turkey. He added it was politically indecent for Gauck to reveal the criticisms which were not a part of their bilateral talks.
Erdoğan described it as "intervention in our domestic affairs."
As the polemics is the point in question, the interest of the public and the media focused on these explanations. At the end of the meetings, no noteworthy remark was made concerning Turkish-German relations.
Yet, there were hot topics that were discussed between Turkey and Germany. At the top of all these was the application to enable the Turkish electorate in Germany to vote in the August 2014 presidential election in the provinces where they live, instead of coming to Turkey to cast their votes.
Previously, Turkey demanded that Turkish expats cast their votes by going to a customs gate in Turkey. Now an important step has been taken, which is supposed to enable more significant participation in the voting, to enable Turkish expats to vote in the countries where they live. Within this scope, a regulation was launched and it will be implemented first in the August 2014 presidential election. Turkish expats will be able to cast their votes in Turkish diplomatic representations, without being obliged to come to Turkey.
On behalf of the Turkish government, this has positive contributions on facilitating participation in elections. Turkey has 2.8 million of its electorate abroad, half of them in Germany. That's why Germany is supposed to contribute to easing Turkish citizens' voting process. Germany verbally announced that it will lend assistance to Turkey for the process. The issue was thoroughly discussed during the meeting between Gauck and Erdoğan. The German party delayed the process by claiming it cannot ensure security for the polls that are opened in a number of places. Therefore, Germany wants to hold ballot boxes only in six or seven polling districts. On the other hand, the Turkish side demanded this number to be increased so that all Turkish expats may cast their votes easily. Officials in Ankara say electoral complexity with Germany has been overcome, which is positive. Still, the number of polling districts needs to be clarified.
The second of these hot topics was about the PKK and the reconciliation process with the Kurds. Taking into account that some 800,000 expats including Turks, Iraqis, Syrians and Kurds, as well as around 12,000 or 13,000 PKK sympathizers, live in Germany, how Germany approaches the reconciliation process with the Kurds is a key concern.
Turkish authorities said that when comprehensive peace strategies like the reconciliation process come up in meetings, German addressees greet it with astonishment and admiration. Despite the majority of nationalist views in Turkey, the reconciliation process is being discussed before the public. This is important in terms of showing Germany the level of democracy that Turkey reached. For Western public opinion, particularly for Germany, the reconciliation process is one of the most important indicators that refute the arguments of authoritarianism in Turkey. They realized that until 10 years ago, there was state of emergency in southeastern Anatolia, people were place under night-time curfews and many laws regarded as taboo could not be debated. They underscore that Turkey has overcome those dark days.
These are the first impressions that Turkish authorities caught from their German addressees in the face-to-face meetings.
How has this reverberated onto the issue of German-Turkish collaboration? For a long time, Turkey has been complaining about the fact that Germany does not facilitate Turkey's tasks. Turkey is asking for help to exterminate the financial resources of all organizations that carry out illegal activities, especially PKK. Last year, Erdoğan frequently brought forward the same issue during his visits to Germany. He will definitely emphasize this issue when he visits Cologne and Berlin on May 23 and 24.
There are different subjects about the PKK to be addressed in this visit. Ankara has confirmed that a campaign is being run in Germany to exclude the PKK from the list of terrorist organizations. German authorities guarantee that they will not take any steps on the matter before it is prevented from constituting a threat both to Turkey and Germany. However, these explanations have not satisfied Ankara for the time being. How does Germany approach the Kurdish reconciliation initiative?
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