The Strategist

Syria, Migrant Workers and the Armenian Genocide. Why Relations Between Turkey and Germany are Becoming Worse

08/21/2015 - 18:30

In recent years, the two partners - Berlin and Ankara - collected many claims to each other. Dissatisfaction of Germany, which is home to more than three million Turks, is arisen by reluctance of many immigrants to integrate into German society. The Bundestag is convinced that this is fault of the president Erdogan and his entourage, who has repeatedly called German Turks to preserve their native language, faith and traditions. Ankara is also unhappy that the German leadership does not contribute to Turkey's accession to the European Union. Recently, additional stimulus emerged in the relations between the two countries: the conflict between the Turkish authorities and Kurds, erupted anew.

Immanuel Giel
Immanuel Giel
The crack in the relationship between Berlin and Ankara was formed after Turkey finally realized: the country is unlikely to become a member of the EU. Turkey has been in the "waiting room of the European Union" since 1987. Despite this, there is little doubt that in the foreseeable future it will not be able to join the single European family. Ankara itself thinks that perhaps the main opponent for that membership is Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her entourage initially supported the idea of Turkey joining the Union, but over time began to treat this venture more coolly. 
The Germans felt that the EU does not need to expand but deepen, creating a political alliance of the countries. Therefore, recently, Berlin has been more restrained in talks about the prospects of Ankara. Besides, Erdogan has formed quite authoritarian regime in the country, not being too concerned about the observance of civil liberties and human rights. As a result, many surrounded by Merkel talked about the fact that Turkey is not a European country in general.

By the way, the personal relationship between the two leaders vere troubled from the very start. Many journalists noted that there is no personal sympathy between Merkel and Erdogan . The relations are quite strained. Erdogan is too charismatic on the background of Merkel. And Chancellor is of such a nature that does not like the leaders brighter than herself. 

Turkish spies in Germany

In December last year, an espionage scandal broke between Berlin and Ankara. It began immediately after the Focus magazine published an article, which reported about arrest of three Turks suspected of espionage in Germany. It is believed that they followed representatives of the Turkish left and the Kurdish organizations, living in Germany, as well as supporters of the opposition Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen (Erdogan accuses him of attempting to organize a coup and involvement in a corruption scandal in 2013, when about 50 Turkish officials and businessmen were arrested on suspicion of bribery).
Among those arrested on suspicion of espionage appeared 58-year-old Mohammed Muhammed Taha Gergerlioğlu, a former adviser to Erdogan. He is considered the organizer of the spy network.

However, this scandal was followed by nothing. Erdogan's administration has rejected the accusations, and Merkel, apparently not wanting to complicate relations with Turkey by making any comments, as usual, abstained. This, however, once again gave rise to the opposition to accuse Chancellor in softness .

The Armenian issue

Bad news for Ankara was that Germany officially recognized the massacre of Armenians by the Turks in 1915as genocide (before, the German authorities have used softer wording). First it was declared by German President Joachim Gauck on April 23 during the mourning ceremonies held in Berlin for the 100th anniversary of those events. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier put in another comment: "What happened (in 1915 - ed.), is falling within the definition of genocide, I understand the feelings of those who want it to be called that way, and the arguments that they are guided".

Despite the fact that Gauck admitted partial responsibility for the events in Berlin (soldiers of Imperial Germany took part in the deportation of Armenians), the Turkish Foreign Ministry aired an angry statement. "President Gauck has no right to ascribe to the Turkish people a crime they did not commit (...) The Turkish people will not forget and will not forgive the statements of President Gauck," - said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, threatening at the same time that "if Germany will not abandon this approach and does not take a constructive position in the long term, this will have negative consequences for relations between Ankara and Berlin".

The denial of the Armenian Genocide has a bad effect on the perception of Turkey in Germany. This is a sensitive issue for Turkey. Still, Turks disagree to call what happened a genocide. Germany, as a country that fully recognized the responsibility for the events of World War II, dislikes those actions of the Turkish authorities. The denial of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey only postpones much desired membership in the EU.

Half a century with migrant workers

A few weeks after President Gauck’s statement, President Erdogan traveled to the German city of Karlsruhe, where, speaking to thousands of ethnic Turks, he traditionally criticized the integration policy of the authorities of Germany and called on his compatriots in Germany to keep faith, traditions and native language.

The Turkish leader has repeatedly asked Berlin to "to show greater solidarity in relation to Turks, living on the territory". According to him, the minority is too small for the integration. In particular, Berlin is against dual citizenship, on which Ankara insists. Turkish authorities are also dissatisfied with a partial preservation of the visa regime between the countries. As explained by an analyst of the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) Kristian Brakel, at the time Germans themselves are free to travel to Turkey, while visa is required for Turks to travel in Germany.

For ten years, Ankara has been asking Berlin to soften immigration laws for Turkish families, residening in the territory of Germany, could come together. Germany, for obvious reasons, refuses. This can be called Berlin’s attempt to regulate migration flows from Turkey. For example, if a family member is coming to Germany for work, having a residence permit, his Turkish families have to collect a bunch of different documents for this.

Bundestag, in turn, believes that Erdogan makes tough statements, trying to attract the votes of Turkish voters living in Germany. At the same time, Berlin believes that Germany has already done a lot for the integration of Turks, many of whom do not want to take the value of the country where they live. It is significant that the grandchildren of Turkish migrants can obtain German citizenship, yet over 70 percent of young men and women, continuing to live in Germany, select Turkish passports.

At the time, the German authorities had made a mistake by allowing Turks to settle compactly. Many of them live in a kind of parallel world, communicating only with their compatriots, and not trying to learn German. Because of the language barrier, some Turkish teenagers often drop out of school and then cannot find a good job. There is another trend: the children and grandchildren of Turkish migrants, having received a good education in Germany, return to Turkey, where they get higher salaries and build a successful career.

The Kurdish problem

The dominance of migrants leads to ethnic conflicts on the streets of German cities, causing a growing dissatisfaction with the locals. There already were clashes between Turks and Kurds, yet they grew more frequent after Ankara launched the operation in Syria. Turks believe that the Syrian Kurds are together with fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, officially recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

Berlin got in a pretty difficult situation through the fault of Ankara. On the one hand, Germany does not approve the fact that the Turks are having a punitive operation against the Syrian Kurds. Germans even recognize Iraqi Kurds as their allies: they are training the fighters and supply them with weapons to fight "Islamic state". On the other hand, Berlin, with its negative attitude to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is forced to abstain from condemning the comments about Ankara. The only thing that remains in such a situation for Steinmeier and Merkel, acting in protection of national minorities, is calling on Turkey "not to end the peace process with the Kurds". 

German media constantly assert that the Syrian leader is a total evil. In this case, the German authorities are aware that if the Assad regime falls, the IG militants destroy ethnic and religious minorities. Syria enters into the sphere of interests of the Great Turkey, so the official Ankara wants to break the regime in Damascus, supporting various radical groups. It is no secret that Turkey trains IG fighters on its territory, supplies them with weapons, passports, being a major transit country for the influx of volunteers, including those from Germany. But official Berlin is trying to turn a blind eye, because for it, the fall of the Assad regime - a more desirable goal than the struggle with the IG.

source: lenta