Turkish-German relations in the areas of security, the economy and foreign policy should reach higher levels by focusing on common interests and a positive agenda, participants emphasized during a workshop held by the Turkish Presidency's Security and Foreign Policy Committee on Wednesday as they discussed relations between Turkey and Germany.
The workshop, entitled "Turkish perspective of the new government established in Germany and the future of Germany-Turkey relations," was chaired by Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin and attended by committee members, academics and think thank and media representatives.
The current state of relations between Turkey and Germany, the future of bilateral ties, migration, the fight against terrorism, Turkey's European Union membership process, the Eastern Mediterranean issue, the Ukraine crisis and relations with Russia were discussed in detail at the workshop, according to a statement from the committee.
It added that alternative policies in line with Turkey's bilateral relations with Germany, regional cooperation and increasing the trade volume were also discussed.
In light of the Turkish population in Germany and the deep-rooted cultural and economic relations between the two countries, participants said that developed industrial collaborations, private sector and nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities, student exchange programs and cultural events added a strategic dimension to bilateral relations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during a congratulatory phone call to the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in late December, said that bilateral ties between Turkey and Germany should be guided by common sense and a strategic view.
Ankara and Berlin are major trading partners, as Germany has been a top Turkish import source and export destination for decades. The two countries also share deep cultural ties due to Germany's 5 million-strong Turkish diaspora. In addition, Turkey is among the top tourism destinations for Germans, apart from hosting thousands of German expatriates.
Among other potential issues on the table are the migration issue, human rights and Turkey's role in NATO. Turkey plays a key role in accepting refugees. The country has already taken in around 3.7 million refugees from Syria and hundreds of thousands of migrants from other countries, such as Afghanistan.
Moreover, a panel discussion was held in the French capital Wednesday in which relations between the EU and Turkey within the scope of France's term presidency of the bloc.
The majority of the Turkish people still think EU membership would be beneficial both for the bloc and their country, said Turkish Ambassador to France Ali Onaner.
Both the EU and Turkey have voiced their intentions to set a positive agenda, yet further efforts and actions are needed. Turkey has reiterated that it is part of Europe and sees its future in the EU, adding that it will continue to work toward full membership.
Onaner said that of Turkey's European partners, France is the country with which Turkey has had the most problems.
He asserted that the disputes between Turkey and France over the Eastern Mediterranean originated from differing policies of the countries in Libya and Syria.
Ankara has repeatedly traded barbs with Paris over its policies on Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and other issues, but the NATO members said last year they were working on a road map to normalize relations.
The problem in Syria is that Turkey's allies cooperate with the PKK terrorist group's Syrian branch YPG, he said adding that both countries currently share the same priorities in Libya.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the United States, Turkey and the EU, and Washington's support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara. The U.S. primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG's presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.' support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Onaner also highlighted that the problems between Turkey and Greece are bilateral and should be resolved between them.
Pressing Turkey under the pretext of EU solidarity would not contribute to the solution, he added.
The two neighbors, allies in NATO, are at odds over a number of issues such as competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of islands in the Aegean Sea.
Another participant, Didier Billion, a senior political scientist and expert on Turkish studies, said that the EU's double standards toward Turkey regarding its accession process have rightfully frustrated Turkish citizens.
Even though commercial relations between the EU and Turkey continue to improve, the accession process was de facto halted, he noted.
Billion also complained that Turkey's EU membership was instrumentalized in French politics to garner votes.