Differences between Germany and Turkey will continue to be a
part of bilateral meetings
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the Group of 20 or G-20, meeting in Hamburg at a time of renewed tensions with Germany. The two NATO allies have spent months bickering over matters directly linked to Erdogan’s domestic political concerns. It seems that many of the differences between Turkey and its ally remain unresolved. These will continue to be a part of bilateral meetings in the future.
The G20 meeting, which brings together leaders of governments from the world’s 20 major economies, was held in Hamburg during the weekend.
How should we assess the tensions that have re-emerged with Germany as the G20 meeting takes place?
Like all countries, Turkey and Germany must make an effort to manage the domestic political tensions that confront them. When you add to this the tensions created by an international forum like the G20, a country’s tranquility can easily be undermined.
Activists and other groups frequently target these meetings, and we’ve already seen severe criticism of the G20 at an alternative summit.
Turkey’s political battles at home have already been exported to Germany, and I believe this has made Germany even more cautious. To understand Berlin’s position, let’s ask ourselves the same question. If in the future, a Syrian prime minister with whom Turkey does not share an affinity, were to come here and if mass rallies by Syrians were to take place, would we be pleased? Would we even allow it?
Germany was cautious about the visit of a Turkish president and the political activities surrounding that visit after the problems that arose during Turkey’s constitutional referendum in April and the incident involving the Turkish president’s security detail during his visit to Washington in May. This cautious stance is viewed negatively by our president and his circles who want to mobilize the ethnic Turkish population of Germany.
How will this tension reflect upon Turkey’s relations with Germany?
G20 meetings are held in various places, none of which has this big population of people from Turkey. Wherever there is a G20 meeting, it has its own set of problems, and not all of them will involve Turkey.
The 3 million ethnic Turks who live in Germany gave this meeting its own peculiarity, and this population are active on matters regarding Turkish domestic politics. What concerns me here is that the Turkish government and the managers of the ruling party see this population as a resource for their political struggle back in Turkey. Another peculiarity is that ethnic Turkish voters who feel closer to left-wing parties in Germany display completely different preferences when it comes to Turkey’s domestic politics.
However, the essential matter is that protests in Germany upset that country’s public order. This unrest gives rise to reactions from the German public, and it may negatively affect the population of Turkish origin that resides there. Already, Germany has introduced legislation that bars politicians from foreign countries from campaigning there three months before an election. Other regulations may follow.
Do you mean to say that Turkish citizens living in Germany could be harmed?
If we consider the worst-case scenario, Germany could introduce harsher measures to prevent Turks from maintaining dual citizenship, something Berlin does not want anyway. By using people for your own short-term political gains, especially those whose citizenship ties you want to maintain, you are putting your longterm assets in Germany at risk.
These people, who now support you politically, may come to regret their actions if they pay a heavy price.
Viewing the population of Turkish-origin citizens as a resource for domestic politics should be limited or you may encounter unwanted outcomes. For example, Turkish nationals who insist on maintaining their Turkish citizenship may see increased pressure to return to Turkey and can be replaced with migrants from other countries. Waiting in line are Syri- ans. Ukrainians, Belarusians and Moldovans could also close any gap. So, Turkey must be extremely cautious and abandon its view that Turks in Germany are part of Turkish politics.
We have thus far discussed Turkish-German problems. But world leaders met at the G20.
The official meetings are undoubtedly important, but bilateral meetings among world leaders are as important. For example, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met face-to-face for the first time in Hamburg since Trump’s election. Their egos are big, and everyone wondered what would happen between two leaders who possess authoritarian spirits. It seems that they got along well in a meeting that far exceeded the scheduled time. We cannot predict, however, what this means for the long term relations between the two countries since the American president is unpredictable, possibly erratic, in his politics.
Chinese President Xi Jingping also attended. Putin and Xi recently said they would work together to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and want the United States to end its regional military exercises with South Korea in return. The United States is exhibiting a bellicose stance towards North Korea. This is a strange situation. At the moment, the Chinese and Russian leaders appear to be the responsible ones who are trying to protect world peace while the great threat comes from the Trump administration. These issues and more, I am sure, were discussed on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.