“I need evidence to classify Gulen’s group as a terrorist organisation,” was a statement made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference with Turkish president Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, who is visiting Berlin.
The Turkish president, already with many controversies under his belt regarding his policies towards Europe and especially Germany, faced much embarrassment during this visit. According to some analysts, Turkey has come to be seen as a more “rejected” state for Europe.
Media fury and protests
Thousands protested in the German capital of Belin last Friday, hours after the arrival of Erdogan. Protestors raised placards rejecting the visit such as “Erdogan Not Welcome,” “No Deals with Erdogan – Stop Arms Exports to Turkey,” and “Stop Kurdish Genocide.” According to the German police, numbers at the rallies exceeded 4,000 protestors.
Speaking to 7Dnews, Hani Solaiman, director of the Arabian Centre for Research and Studies in Cairo, confirmed that the current economic conditions in Turkey are witnessing “an apparent deterioration” due to the collapse of its currency, the Turkish Lira, by over 40% of its value against the US dollar.
Solaiman stressed that the Turkish president knows very well that this visit will be tepid, due to the continuous tensions in relations for almost two years. Bild, a German newspaper, marked the end of Erdogan’s visit by saying “Hate speech in Germany directed against Germany.” Local German media strongly criticised the visit as well.
A journalist managed to give Erdogan an awkward moment during the joint press conference with Merkel, demanding the release of fellow journalists imprisoned in Turkey. Erdogan stopped speaking while security went in to escort the journalist out of the press hall, in an attempt to restore order in the room.
We will not extradite the opposition
Germany rejected a request by Erdogan to classify as a terrorist organisation Fethullah Gulen's “Service” movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of planning the June 2016 coup. In addition, it rejected requests to extradite Turkish nationals living or seeking refuge in Germany.
German Chancellor Merkel embarrassed the Turkish president again as Erdogan labelled Jean Dondar, a journalist who published video footage of Turkish intelligence moving arms to jihadist groups in Syria, as a “terrorist”, while Merkel kept referring to Dondar as a “journalist.”
Solaiman stressed that Berlin never forgot what Ankara did when it used the Syrian refugee card to blackmail Europe, and especially Germany, to make economic gains and try to bully its way to become a member of the European Union.
“German–Turkish relations will never return to their previous state in light of Erdogan’s policies against Europe and Germany in the past few years,” said Solaiman. He added that the failed coup attempt, which Erdogan accused Germany of supporting through its limited response, was enough to reveal how bad relations had become between both sides.
Solaiman also pointed at the way Erdogan was received in his latest visit to Berlin, describing it as “very tepid.” In addition to embarrassing Erdogan with the issue of arrests and press freedom in Turkey, many German officials failed to show up for the dinner ceremony with the German president, out of disapproval for the visit.
Solaiman said that the failed coup attempt in Turkey was the main reason behind the tension in relations as a result of a vicious campaign that Erdogan launched against civilians, and his constant attempts to pursue the opposition outside Turkey through spying or by pressuring the authorities to hand them over, something Germany has heavily rejected.
“The failed coup attempt in Turkey was one of the main reasons for relationship tensions, due to Erdogan’s vicious and oppressive campaigns against civilians, and his attempts to prosecute opposition members abroad through espionage or pressuring governments to extradite them,” said Solaiman. “This is something that Germany absolutely rejects.”
Reasons behind the tension
After the failed coup attempt in Turkey, in a statement to Bild the head of the German Federal Intelligence Service, Burno Kahl, said that “the Turkish government attempted to convince us on many levels that the Gulen movement is the one that planned the coup. But it has failed to present any convincing evidence on that matter.”
2016 witnessed several events that led to escalation between the two sides, such as the acknowledgement of Turkish massacres against the Armenians by the German parliament, and repeated rejection of Erdogan’s demands to extradite the “Service” movement members.
Germany also criticised the arrests made after the failed coup attempt, which purged thousands of civilians, soldiers and judges, accusing them of association with the “Service” movement.
Tension escalated between the two sides in 2017, as massive Kurdish protests in Cologne demanded the release of Kurdistan Workers Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey.
Ankara also arrested a number of German citizens under charges of terrorism, while Germany banned rallies that supported the Turkish constitution amendment referendum. Berlin also accused Ankara of spying on hundreds of Gulen supporters inside Germany.
At the same time, the German Chancellor confirmed that Turkey should not be a member of the European Union. Then, at the beginning of 2018, came the Turkish military campaign in Afrin, in the north of Syria, which Germany harshly criticised.
“There are many issues, actually most of them, that Berlin does not agree with Ankara on. This makes Erdogan’s visit useless, and without any valued gains,” said Solaiman.