How successful was Erdoğan's visit to Germany?

Turkish President Erdoğan's three-day visit to Berlin and Cologne ended on the weekend. Despite harsh criticism from the German president and chancellor, Erdoğan concluded that the visit had been successful. It did not amount to a fresh start in relations between the two nations, some commentators say. Others call for the dialogue to continue.

Open/close all quotes (DE) /

Turkish president has failed for now

Nothing has come so far of the fresh start in German-Turkish relations which Erdoğan was hoping for, writes:

“At the joint press conference with Erdoğan, Chancellor Merkel went on for several minutes about the profound differences between her and the Turkish president. Press freedom, freedom of opinion, the rule of law, Germans detained in Turkey - Merkel left no stone unturned. Erdoğan, however, didn't let on that he had caught her drift. Far from achieving a new start in German-Turkish relations, the Turkish president still has nothing at all to show for his trouble. Apart from an agreement on a four-way summit on Syria, he's returning to Ankara empty-handed. But now he knows exactly how things stand. Whether a new start can be successful is up to him.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Invitation was the right move

In view of the global situation dialogue with Turkey is important, Sydsvenskan comments:

“At a time when the US is turning inwards it is particularly important that EU countries focus on international relations. ... And since there is no consensus on migration policy in the EU, a new wave of refugees in Europe could considerably deepen the already visible rifts between the member states. ... There are many reasons to protest with vehemence against the democratic deficits of Erdoğan's regime. Merkel, however, was right to invite him on a state visit with a focus on political talks. By the look of things it's clearly better to talk to Turkey - in a friendly but firm tone - than not to conduct any dialogue at all with it.”

T24 (TR) /

All that counts for Germany is a stable Turkey

For Germany the threat to democracy in Turkey is not so important, the website T24 argues:

“Whether or not Turkey is a democracy doesn't really matter to Germany. Germany sees Turkey from the perspective of its own national interests and security. ... For Germany a stable Turkey has always been important. Whether this stability was guaranteed by second-rate democracy or a military or civilian dictatorship doesn't matter as far as Germany is concerned. So why all the fuss? Why do leading German politicians so often call for democracy, the rule of law and freedom? To preserve their image in the eyes of the democratic public. This is not bad, but democracy, justice and freedom are our business, not Germany's.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Difficult dialogue well packaged

Kapka Todorova, the Germany correspondent for 24 Chasa, describes the meeting as a balancing act for both sides:

“Under pressure as a result of the collapse of the lira and the US sanctions, Erdoğan has no choice but to seek to milden the conversational tone. Merkel, who was often compared with Hitler in pro-Erdoğan media, is now being cast as a hero who is fighting the smouldering racism in Eastern Germany. ... As for Merkel, she will have a hard time selling the meeting with Erdoğan as dialogue with the leader of a country that is vital for Germany - as long as German citizens are languishing in Turkish prisons for their political convictions and German journalists of Turkish origin are being arrested.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Approach each other with pragmatism

The state visit is an opportunity to at least put German-Turkish relations back on a reasonable basis, Hürriyet believes:

“Since both countries would benefit from having good relations with the Turks living in Germany, it's clear that both sides will choose to act pragmatically. No progress on the topic of EU membership can be expected, but on issues like the customs union, economic relations and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens they can at least try to move a step forward. At the same time it wouldn't be a big surprise for us if Merkel responded to public pressure and put reform recommendations regarding democracy and the rule of law on the agenda.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Why not talk about equality?

Since the Turkish president has brought his wife along to Berlin Merkel could also bring up the subject of women's rights, Der Tagesspiegel suggests:

“Turkey is ranked 126th out of 134 countries in a report on women's equality by the Global Economic Forum. It would really be something if our chancellor were to make the financial support Erdoğan urgently requires contingent on his country making progress on this issue, among other things. ... A hundred years of women's suffrage in Germany also sends a warning message; because here in Germany not everything is perfect in this respect. For example women occupy only six percent of the seats on executive boards. So there's still plenty to be done, worldwide and Europe-wide. All the way to Turkey. Perhaps at least Emine Erdoğan will have an open ear.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Driving a wedge between Germans and German-Turks

Erdoğan's first stop during his state visit was a meeting with German-Turks. With this kind of gesture he isn't doing the Turks in Germany any favours, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung criticises:

“While nurturing cultural ties with the home country of your forefathers can be enriching, a strong connection to the country of origin can also hinder integration in one's new homeland. And this is precisely what Erdoğan's foreign policy aims to achieve. ... This stance is driving a wedge between Turkish citizens in Europe and the societies they live in. The consequences of this alienation deliberately and actively promoted by Erdoğan are grave - first and foremost for Turks living abroad. No other section of the population in Germany is as economically and socially disadvantaged as those with Turkish roots.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Germany's balancing act

Berlin is giving the Turkish president a surprisingly warm reception, observes De Telegraaf's German correspondent Ro Savelberg:

“As if it were all love, peace and harmony. As if Erdoğan had never described the Republic of Germany as a country of 'fascists' and claimed there was 'no freedom of opinion' in Germany while he himself has locked away countless journalists, activists and members of the opposition without a trial. ... This is a balancing act. On the one hand Germany doesn't want to endanger its considerable trade with Turkey, which is suffering as a result of the lira crisis and US sanctions. On the other there's the criticism of the authoritarian regime. That's why Angela Merkel won't be attending the state banquet for Erdoğan tomorrow.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Berlin prefers to help Ankara in private

If the German government does agree to help Turkey's economy we won't find out about it until later on, Hürriyet Daily News suspects:

“Erdoğan is going to Berlin at a time when Turkey is facing serious economic hardship. ... Most likely, the German government will not come with generous offers to salvage the ailing Turkish economy. Not only because German officials fear the public reaction, but because they would not like to boost an administration that still holds citizens hostage in their eyes. But it would not be surprising to find out, perhaps at later stages, that some indirect financial mechanisms will be introduced in order to avoid a 'hard landing' of the Turkish economy, which could work against the German interest.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Talk about human rights now

Notwithstanding all the pomp and the state banquet the Turkish president is still coming to Germany as a supplicant, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung concludes - and calls on the German government to take advantage of this:

“In this situation a trusting policy aimed at defusing tensions doesn't make sense. The German government should know that it has the chance now to demand compensatory measures for any economic aid. Erdoğan can no longer use the threat of cancelling the refugee deal as leverage. Because today the Turkish president certainly can't dispense with the billions this deal secures him from Brussels. So when, if not now, would be the right time to talk to Erdoğan about human rights violations?”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Only Turkey's true friends will attend

A number of German politicians have announced that they do not plan to attend the state banquet for Erdoğan. Good news, writes the pro-government paper Daily Sabah:

“It is a positive development that parties like the Left and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), who constitute problems in terms of German democracy, will not attend. In the reception hosted by Steinmeier in Bellevue Palace, we will meet our true German friends who value dialogue and believe that problems between the countries can be resolved through diplomacy. This event will also alleviate the Turkish community in Germany to some extent. ... [The Turkish-Germans] hope that the disintegration between Germans and Turks observed over the past years will come to an end thanks to the meeting.”