Merkel's balancing act in Ankara
Angela Merkel's visit to Ankara was already harshly condemned before it took place, with commentators blasting the chancellor for supporting Erdoğan shortly before the constitutional referendum. On Thursday Merkel had meetings not just with the Turkish president and Prime Minister Yıldırım, but also with opposition politicians. How self-assertive can the chancellor be vis-à-vis Erdoğan in view of the refugee crisis and the economic interests at stake here?
Chancellor needs Erdoğan
Angela Merkel can't afford another refugee crisis in the election year, Dagens Nyheter comments:
“The refugee deal never smelled good. But it reduced the flood of people heading for the Greek islands to a trickle, also as a result of the Balkan route being closed. The deal also includes the lifting of visa restrictions for the Schengen Area. But this point won't be implemented as long as Turkey refuses to change its anti-terrorism legislation - Erdoğan's favourite weapon. What will happen if Turkey opens the gates once more no one knows. But with only six months to go before the elections Merkel can't afford another refugee crisis. So what did she tell Erdoğan? Money, yes; giving into his demands, no. Anything else was out of the question.”
Economic interests are the top priority
For the left-wing daily Evrensel Merkel's visit to Ankara yesterday means that Berlin has decided to accept and come to terms with Erdoğan's Turkey:
“In the last two years there have been clashes between Turkey and Germany over press freedom, the Armenian genocide and İncirlik, but relations have never been broken off. These clashes have had a strong impact on the work of both countries and deepened prejudices. The only thing that wasn't influenced was capital. 6,500 German companies have continued their activities in Turkey and Turkish companies continue to export to Germany. … The economic and military cooperation between these two countries which seem so at odds from an external point of view has continued without problems and has even risen to a new high. As far as Germany's regional interests are concerned, that's the top priority.”