The recent visit to Cologne by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has caused a lot of discussion in the German media. JLH has translated an article about Mr. Erdogan’s provocative words in Cologne, and includes this introductory note:
Here is another installment in the saga of Erdogan in Germany. This time he has left behind a country in continuing turmoil — fighting in the streets. Following the Gezi Park insurrection, he has had to weather a corruption scandal and then a mine disaster (See Gates of Vienna: “A Turkish Spring?”, June 2, 2013; and “Gezi Park and the Class Struggle in Turkey”, January 5, 2014).
As to the fears about not being admitted to the EU, he has applied pressure before, once throwing a notable tantrum just before leaving for Bonn, so Merkel heard about it and was suitably conciliatory.
The perception of reality in this article may strike some people as odd — for instance, believing that America would surely react if a correspondent were pressured by another government. And we have a marine sitting in jail in Mexico, a wife of an American being executed in Sudan, someone else being held by Iran…
Also, the presumption that Western values may make a difference in a country that had already made the step into the West and has now regressed vigorously.
Well, a difference of opinion is what makes horse races.
The translated article from Die Welt:
Visit to Cologne
Why Erdogan Paints Germany as an Enemy
The Turkish head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has for a year nursed resentment against the Germans. Ankara needs a scapegoat in case its EU candidacy fails.
by Boris Kálnoky May 25, 2014
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned Chancellor Angela Merkel in his speech on Saturday, the response was loud boos.
The surge of hatred for the German Chancellor was no coincidence. Leading Turkish politicians, Erdogan’s “chief adviser” Yirgit Bulut and the supine press have all purposely fanned the flames of anti-German resentment for almost a year. Shortly before Erdogan’s visit to Cologne, it peaked in an essay in the newspaper Yeni Safak, which implied that Germany is a threat to Turkish national security.
It is a matter of history and tradition. Israel and America, England and France, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds and Christians are enemies with historic roots. But the new Germanophobia now being spread is a creation of the AKP. It is an attempt to add a new dimension to the historical Turkish persecution anxieties. The citizens will discover that the EU is turning its back on Turkey because that is how Germany wants it.
Germany and Turkey have traditionally been good partners, and Germany is highly respected among most Turks. But if this new discourse is maintained, it could be burned into the Turkish psyche in the long run.
After the Gezi Park Protests, Europe stepped on the Brakes
The Gezi Park protests of a year ago were the reason for this rhetoric. That and the reaction of the regime — confronting their critics with maximum physical, legal and verbal force — impacted the EU strategy vis-à-vis Turkey. After years of no progress in negotiations about Turkey entering the EU, there had been a limited rapprochement. A new chapter in the negotiations was to be opened — and possibly more, later.
But then, Europe suddenly hit the brakes. Germany especially insisted on it. In Ankara, it was feared that the anticipated new beginning could be blocked again, because Chancellor Merkel was against it. In the end, there was “only” a postponement of three months.
But there are still no proper negotiations, and hope of opening new paths is very subdued. After the Gezi Park protests, whose side-effects were damage to European values such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, there came the revelations of corruption of the previous December and the extensive subversion of constitutional law to shield the regime from criminal proceedings.
And then the local elections at the end of March. Irregularities — comparatively few to be sure — were in favor of the AKP and decisive in the election. Freedom of the press, rule of law, free and fair elections are three of the four pillars of the Copenhagen Criteria, and they are crumbling. The fourth is free trade. In Turkey it is joined at the hip with nepotism.
The German Media as Allies of “Arrogant Groups”
Under these circumstances, the EU is talking more about suspension than acceleration of the entry negotiations. Ankara needs a scapegoat, in case the EU candidacy fails. It will be Germany.
It started last summer. Highly placed AKP representatives said that Germany intended to prevent the new super airport in Ankara, because the result would be that Frankfurt would lose its significance. EU Minister Egemen Bagis warned Angela Merkel that she would lose power, if she messed with Turkey. The regime’s media ran non-stop stories about alleged collusion between the German media and “traitors” at home. Anyone who knows Turkey is aware that this does not happen without word from above.
Erdogan spoke in the same vein in Cologne. Not only the chancellor was booed, but also the “German media,” whom Erdogan called conspiratorial puppet-masters and allies of “arrogant groups” in Turkey. He targeted especially the Spiegel correspondent Hasnain Kazim. Without mentioning his name, Erdogan mentioned a journalist who had said he “should go to Hell.” And he added ominously, that the writer seemed to already know the way to Hell.
Hasnain Kazim was booed by the 18,000 in the audience, after Erdogan had incited them, but it was actually a miner from the Soma mine who had consigned Erdogan to hell, after the tragedy there ten days before. Kazim merely reported it. Since then, he has been under great pressure, and is even receiving death threats. It is so bad that his editors withdrew him from Turkey.
It is a scandal that the German government has not said a word about the pressure exerted on a German correspondent by the Turkish leadership. If something similar had happened to a US correspondent, Washington would certainly have reacted.
German Turks Have an Impact in Turkey
Seen from another angle, Germany may actually be a “danger” for Erdogan’s authoritarian society-building. Many impulses have traveled from here to Turkey. Without the German-Turkish influence, the edgy Turkish pop music would be unthinkable. Even Erdogan’s money-oriented Economic Islam has its roots in Germany.
Outside the gates of Cologne’s Lanxess Arena where Erdogan was speaking, Turkish compatriots were also demonstrating against him. They were greater in number than those inside who were applauding him. It is true that Erdogan has many followers in Germany. But more and more Turks are being positively shaped by Germany and would like to see German values like constitutional law and freedom of expression in Turkey too. So it was not just to prevent a closer bond to Germany that Erdogan was exhorting the German-Turks not to assimilate.
Placards carried by Erdogan’s opponents said “A Turkey without Tayyip.” Such a Turkey would come, he mused in his speech. “Recep Tayyip Erdogan is mortal,” he said. “He will taste death when the time comes — no sooner, no later.” But the Turkish republic would “continue on its consecrated way.”
That was a re-attributed quotation from the founder of the state — Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who had once said something similar about himself. One way of reading this is that Erdogan sees himself on a level with Atatürk. But it probably also means that, like Atatürk, he will be separated from power only by death.