ALI – Relations with Germany

Relations with GermanyI was in Berlin for a seminar that has been organized by Zaman for the past seven years it is an event that focuses on German-Turkish relations. I spent my university years — after studying political science in Ankara — in Berlin.

The cityand#39s position at the front of the Cold War flank was evident by the wall running through it in those years. Twenty-five years after the wall came down, Germanyand#39s capital is no longer in Bonn, but rather Berlin.

The city is still busy trying to erase the traces of World War II from its fabric and actually becomes more and more attractive with each passing day. Sectors that need qualified young assistants choose Berlin as their home base, and for good reason.

In a Germany that is generally getting smaller, Berlin has a population growing at the rate of around 30,000 annually.The seminar focused on the topic of the importance of the andldquonew Turkeyandrdquo in relations between Germany and Turkey.

Jointly hosted by Zaman and one of Germanyand#39s most important universities, the Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance, this seminar featured not only important presentations, but many notable attendees. The opening speech was given by university President Professor Gesine Schwan, who is also one of the most respected as well as colorful figures in the German political scene, as well as the candidate for president for both the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party.

The second speaker was Professor Rita Sussmuth, a former MP with roots in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as well as someone who held the presidency of the German Bundestag for a decade between 1988 and 1998. Professor Ersin KalaycIoIlu from Sabanci University offered an interpretation of the andldquonew Turkeyandrdquo that was particularly interesting to German attendees.

In addition, in listening to speaker Professor Udo Steinbach, it was clear from his words that he is a close and careful observer of AnkaraIn the end, it was evident that Germans, just like us, are trying to understand the events of recent years in Turkey, including the depth of the corruption, Gezi Park and its aftermath and the Justice and Development Partyand#39s (AK Party) transition from being a party that appeared to embrace society as a whole into one that has polarized and divided the country. So even if the topic of the day at this seminar was the andldquonew Turkey,andrdquo the real question on everyoneand#39s mind was andldquoWhere is Turkey headed?andrdquoWithin the borders of the European Union, a united Germany now has nearly the same economic weight as France and England combined.

With a population that has surpassed 80 million, it is in a category of its own. Any decision made in EU groups that opposes the interests of Germany, with its population and its economy, is just not realistic.

And the shared EU currency, the euro, really only stands today due to the efforts and sacrifices made by Germany it would simply otherwise not be possible.Let us now turn to the importance Germany holds for Turkey by stressing a couple of points.

Despite Turkeyand#39s many trade initiatives over the past 50 years into regions such as Russia, the Middle East and Central Asia, the fact is that some 50 percent of Turkeyand#39s foreign trade is still with EU countries. In addition, around 50 percent of the trade that takes place between Turkey and the EU is in fact with Germany.

When it comes to foreign investment in Turkey, the situation is not much different some years, up to 90 percent of the foreign investment in Turkey is EU-based, with an important share of this belonging to Germany. The presence Turkey maintains today in some European markets — for example, where household appliances are concerned — is one result of this important economic relationship.

Another important factor regarding Germany is the number of Turkish immigrants — around 3 million — living there. These are people who now play an important role in the economy as well as in the social and cultural life of Germany.

Similarly, factors involving both unemployment and education have influenced the Turks living in Germany to the extent that they have also become a piece of the larger picture of social issues facing this country. Because of the presence of so many Turks in Germany, the country has become one where not only the faiths of Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism exist, but where Islam also has a significant presence.

In addition, the Turks living in Germany have weight in the economic tableau that should not be underestimated.And for Turkey, it seems perhaps almost too obvious to point out, but the young generations of ethnic Turks growing up in a country like Germany, with its EU standards, are also very important for the Turkish economy.

But the fact is, while economic, societal and political cooperation ought be growing and developing at this juncture, the current relationship between Germany and Turkey is unfortunately not exactly hope-inspiring.Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and former Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen BaIIIand#39s public statements targeting both German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel have done much to damage the relations between these two countries, making it difficult for the government in Ankara to repair and rebuild.

One source of hope in this otherwise gloomy vista lies with civil society organizations and groups like Zaman, who despite the Turkish state are busy trying to keep channels of communication open.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman