BERIL – The German president’s visit

The German president’s visitGerman President Joachim Gauck was in Turkey last week for an official visit. His quite important meetings didn’t go so well, unfortunately, for a number of reasons. Such high-level official visits are good opportunities, normally, for allied countries to push their cooperation forward, to share their views on world events and to better coordinate their diplomatic actions. These visits are also an opportunity to express differences of views or directly address some criticism. But, in general, official visits are symbols of friendly relations between states.The German president’s Turkey visit, however, was not very friendly. Mr. Gauck announced that he was worried about what’s going on in Turkey, and that he was even scared. It was interesting that he didn’t say he expects Turkey to correct its mistakes on issues like human rights, rule of law and public freedoms, but only said that he is genuinely worried about Turkey’s future. Therefore, we understand he believes the political situation in Turkey will get worse in the near future. The criticism the German president expressed is also made by many Turks, so there was nothing new there. Turkish President Abdullah Gul could at least have used this opportunity to ask his counterpart why the European Union doesn’t start negotiations on chapters 23 and 24, and thus show the EU’s determination to accelerate Turkey’s accession process.The German president preferred not to address this. Nevertheless, the chapters on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security are exactly on matters that can resolve many problems in Turkey regarding the human-rights situation. It appears, however, that the German president prefers Turkey to remain attached to the EU somehow, without being a member. In other words, they don’t want to lose Turkey, but they don’t want to let it in either. To speak the truth, this is not a realistic expectation.By the way, President Gauck’s visit was productive, too: He was present at the inauguration of the Turkish-German University in Istanbul, for example. Nevertheless, an aggressive tone dominated his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and, following this meeting, a quite unnecessary battle of words occurred.Some signals made by the German president were very disturbing for the Turkish prime minister. For example, it was difficult to understand why President Gauck didn’t deliver the address in which he was most critical at the Turkish-German University. He instead did it at Middle East Technical University (ODTu), which has become a center of political dissatisfaction with the current government in recent months. However, universities are part of civil society and it was civil society’s role to respond to this speech.Maybe the press has given too much of an impression that Germany’s president came to Turkey in order to criticize the Turkish prime minister. In fact, Mr. Gauck gave this impression himself. It seemed as if he was complaining to President Gul about Prime Minister ErdoIan. Perhaps this explains the prime minister’s quite tough and undiplomatic response. He was probably angry at the fact that Germany’s president clearly expressed his trust in President Gul and not him. President Gauck probably angered ErdoIan, but he also put President Gul into a very difficult position.If this visit’s purpose was to reinforce ties between the two peoples, it would have been better to make an effort to renew the trust between the two countries’ leaders. We mustn’t quickly label this visit as unsuccessful, however, because the very purpose of the visit was perhaps to expose the disagreements between Turkey and Germany. If it is so, then the goal was perfectly attained. 

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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