German Politics towards Turkey under Merkel: a Critical Assessment

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Series Details Number 140
Publication Date September 2017
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Turkish President Erdoğan demanding blood tests for German MPs with Turkish origin or Nazi comparisons coming from Ankara: German-Turkish relations have reached rock bottom and bonds of trust between both countries are almost completely disrupted.

Considering Germany’s announcement of a reorientation of its policy towards Turkey on 20th of July 2017, it is yet unclear how bilateral relations between Berlin and Ankara will develop in the future. European-Turkish relations however are already in shambles. This was not always the case: The years following the recognition of Turkey as a pre-accession country up to the beginning of the accession negotiations (1999-2005) can not only be described as the golden years of European-Turkish, but also of German-Turkish relations. The red-green federal government under Schröder/Fischer was the driving force behind this development.

Although the main short-term aim was not the accession to the EU but the democratization and modernization of Turkey, Turkey was to a great extent abandoned to its own fate after the change of government in Germany and the inauguration of Federal Chancellor Merkel in 2005. Paris and Berlin in particular rejected Turkey repeatedly – even at a time when the country was developing towards democracy. Therefore both Germany and the EU have their share of responsibility in the current crisis and in the loss of trust between Turkey and the West. Berlin’s limited influence on Ankara today is also due to the Federal government’s lack of a conceptual policy towards Turkey. The following study critically assesses German foreign policy towards Turkey under Merkel.

Merkel as well as Erdoğan missed an historic opportunity with their misguided policies towards Turkey and Europe respectively. By following the implausible approach of a 'privileged partnership' German chancellor Merkel has lost influence on a country as important as Turkey that has recently developed into a key country in the context of the refugee question. Due to the Turkish foreign policy focus on Sunni Islam, President Erdoğan in turn missed the opportunity for Turkey to become a model state of the Middle East that has succeeded in harmoniously combining democracy and Islam, thus enjoying good reputation internationally.

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Deutsche Welle: Tag: Germany and Turkey - A difficult relationship
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 21.08.18: Germany’s Way with Turkey
The New York Times, 20.08.18: Turkey Drops Travel Ban for German Journalist
Deutsche Welle, 16.02.18: Why are German and Turkish relations so strained?
ECFR: Commentary, 27.09.18: An awkward embrace: Erdoğan in Germany

ESO Records
ESO: In Focus, August 2017: Erdogan tells German Turks not to vote for Angela Merkel

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