Europe, Politics and Government

On Turkey, Germany’s Merkel and Schulz are Making a Major Strategic Mistake

Kemal Kirişci – 9.13.17

In a televised debate last week ahead of the national elections in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz—leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), respectively—stated that Turkey could not and should not be allowed to become a member of the European Union. Understandably, they are frustrated with the actions and rhetoric of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His recent practice of calling German politicians “Nazis,” coupled with his blatant interference in Germany’s domestic affairs by labelling CDU and SPD “enemies of Turkey” and calling on the Turkish diaspora not to vote for them has generated substantial resentment.

Relations became even more tense when Erdoğan suggested that he would be prepared to release the growing number of German nationals detained in Turkey in exchange for individuals who were allegedly implicated in last year’s coup attempt and fled to Germany. Such blatant disregard for the rule of law—not to mention the complete lack of ethics—placed Erdoğan beyond the pale for both German leaders and public opinion, almost forcing the leadership to take a firmer stand against Turkey. Merkel and Schulz are also conscious of the need to stand up to the right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has long propagated an anti-Turkish discourse.

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