The German Government’s Shameful Kowtow Before Erdogan
In welcoming Turkey’s presidential dictator for a state visit, the EU’s largest member nation is exploring the limits of self-humiliation. A working visit would be quite enough.
- In welcoming Turkey’s presidential dictator for a state visit, Germany is exploring the limits of self-humiliation. A working visit would be quite enough.
- Erdogan is sure to have an incredible belly laugh. He can kick the rule of law with his feet and call the Germans Nazis and still gets a state visit.
- Erdogan makes excellent use of the German government’s lack of clear-headed and realistic thinking as a valuable foreign policy instrument.
- The EU accession process should finally be officially ended, in order to demonstrate how far Turkey under Erdogan’s rule has moved away from making this an even remotely realistic scenario.
On September 28th and 29th, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be honored by the German government with a state visit to Berlin.
To give such an honor to a man who is relentlessly snuffing out the remaining elements of freedom in his own country is a big mistake. This applies all the more for a country like Germany that is rightfully so proud of its constitutional order.
Christian Lindner, the leader of the German FDP, has rightfully said that it smacks of “a propaganda victory” for Erdogan. After all, Erdogan has established a presidential dictatorship in Turkey, flirts with Islamism and has arbitrarily arrested tens of thousands of people.
Never mind that he and his ministers have amply and very publicly characterized today’s Germans as Nazis. Evidently, the German government conducts its Turkey policy on the basis of the Gospel of Matthew: “If someone hits you on the left cheek, offer him the other.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who showed appreciable courage in standing up to Putin’s Russia, acts like a kitten when it comes to Turkey. He defends the state visit by saying that Erdogan is an elected president and that one has to stay in conversation.
But that is no reason to regale Erdogan with a state visit. Diplomacy offers plentiful concepts for meeting and talking. Honoring a man like Erdogan with military honors is a severe error in judgment by the Berlin government.
Exploring the limits of self-humiliation
As it stands, the German government is trying to legitimize its actions with the intent to soften up Erdogan with diplomatic decorum. In reality, the deplorable net effect is that Germany only ends up exploring the limits of its self-humiliation.
Erdogan is sure to have an incredible belly laugh. He can kick the rule of law with his feet and call the Germans Nazis and still gets a state visit.
Meanwhile, the many democratic-minded people in Turkey’s opposition – and increasingly in Turkey’s jails – could not be more frustrated. Germany is kicking them in the shin, if not worse.
Legitimate reasons for German softness?
The fearful German approach toward Turkey and the bizarre effort to please the dictator is driven by three main considerations:
1. The three million people of Turkish descent living in Germany
63% of Turks living in Germany and entitled to vote in Turkey voted in favor of Erdogan’s constitutional amendment in 2017. In Turkey itself, it was only 51%.
The perverse German reaction to this shameful reality is to please the Erdogan lovers carrying a German passport by buttering up Erdogan with a state visit. Otherwise, they would feel even more alienated in Germany, it is argued.
What is entirely left unaddressed by this approach is how this is supposed to advance the cause of integration in a manner where Germany protects its own social values, most prominently perhaps regarding women’s rights. If not now, when?
2. The refugee deal with Turkey
It was Angela Merkel who negotiated the agreement with Turkey, which — aside from Orban closing Hungary’s borders — is the only effective EU measure against uncontrolled migration to date.
With the EU’s FRONTEX border guard service still basically toothless, the EU has effectively delegated the guarding of its borders in the Eastern Mediterranean to Turkey. That makes Merkel blackmailable.
3. Turkey’s economic and security significance
Germany cannot really wish for Turkey to depart from the West and drift toward Russia and/or China, a move that Erdogan often moots very publicly.
However, there are two important questions to be answered: First, is that a realistic option for Turkey – or yet again another figment of his imagination in his very flighty conduct of foreign policy?
Second, is that drift something that, if Erdogan were really determined, Germany and/or the EU could actually prevent?
Sucking up to a dictator
Of course, it is fully in order to hold conversations with Erdogan. But too much forbearance – or even the “diplomatic” notion of meeting him half way – is not, especially given the increasingly despotic way in which he rules his country. The dividing line between being forbearing and sucking up to a dictator is extremely fluid.
Especially considering the fact that Turkey’s economy is now in a full-blown crisis, a crisis for which Erdogan himself carries the almost exclusive responsibility, Germany should act smartly and use the circumstances to increase its pressure on an important trading partner. It should self-confidently insist on the release of the politically persecuted.
The EU accession process should also finally be officially ended, in order to demonstrate how far Turkey under Erdogan’s rule has moved away from making this an even remotely realistic scenario.
As well, election campaign speeches by any Turkish politician, beginning with the President, should be banned. This can and should be done with the best democratic conscience.
After all, the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly are for German citizens – and not for foreign heads of state. Any financial support from institutions close to the AKP in Germany should be stopped.
If the German government were being honest with itself, or able to think straight, it would recognize that the Turkish president is just about the biggest problem for the integration of his compatriots in Germany.
Sticking to his agenda
To his credit, Erdogan has never made a secret of his intentions. Back in 2008, he gave a speech in Cologne in which he described assimilation as a “crime against humanity.”
Under the circumstances, it is incomprehensible for any self-respecting country — as which Germany definitely ought to act — that Ditib, the umbrella organization of more than 900 Turkish mosque communities in Germany, has received millions in financial support from the German state for integration projects in recent years.
The association is a sub-organization of Diyanet, the religious authority of Turkey, which also sends the imams to Germany. The AKP makes no secret of the fact that it regards Ditib as an extended arm of its own political apparatus.
To this day, the German government lives under an apparent illusion. Ditib is not an instrument of integration, but of the active disintegration of the Turks living in Germany. It is only interested in supporting the mosques close to the AKP.
Behind Erdogan’s sinister rhetoric lies a cynical calculus. First, he knows that he can rely on the German government’s acquiescence. Both governing parties are actively competing with one another to attract Turkish-origin voters to their respective cause.
Second, he knows that he can count on poorly integrated Turks in Germany as dutiful suppliers of votes to him. Third, Erdogan makes excellent use of the German government’s lack of clear-headed and realistic thinking as a valuable foreign policy instrument.
Given that Erdogan and his many operatives never make any secret out of their ill intentions, it is long overdue that the German government draw the logical consequences from all this.
Until it does, it needs to understand that its so-called strategy of cooperation is nothing more than an act of wholly inappropriate appeasement.