A chancellor who has realized the futility of scuffling with Erdoğan
Germany now seems as if it has more empathy toward Turkey as compared to the past. This is because Germans have recognized the futility of spending energy clashing with the leader of a country who has completely changed national policies into tactics that keep him in power.
Foreign policy begins at home.
This phrase is the title of the famous book by Richard N. Haas, one of the esteemed names in foreign policy in the West. Currently the president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the U.S. think tank, Haas explains in his 2013 book that most significant threats to the U.S.’s global leadership come from inside, not outside the country’s borders. Haas and the CFR are popular hate figures within Turkey’s Islamist community, and I’ll leave it to the self-acclaimed Turkish television commentators to discuss the trend of demonizing these two. I should note that I find it extremely shallow that Richard Hass has adopted a stance in which his rage has overtaken his logic and that I can summarize as “Let us completely give up looking for a platform for a reasonable relationship with Turkey.”
Leaving aside his pros and cons regarding Turkey, I believe that the theme of the aforementioned book by Haas, that “the biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within,” works for many other countries today. Most of all, it works for Turkey! Beyond Turkey’s organic issues, I can name very few other global threats that can match the ones that are self-created by Erdoğan’s government.
For instance, there’s the withdrawal from being a signatory to the Istanbul Convention, which is based on positive discrimination towards women against all kinds of types of violence. There’s also the bill that would turn social media into an open prison, very much like other media outlets that have been seized with a conquest mentality, another bill imposed to set lawyers against one another, and finally, a religious official taking the floor with a sword in his hand on the day of Hagia Sophia's conversion into a mosque. The total amount of permanent damage caused by these events could not be inflicted even Turkey were to face a dozen Greeces, United Arab Emirates, and Frances, all under the mentorship of Israel.
Again, a society in which individual rights and freedoms have been seized cannot be of any good either to itself or to the country. Like an animal chewing its own limb off to escape from a trap, it is expected that we - citizens of Turkey - carry on with our lives in an injured, automatic, and dysfunctional manner.
As the government drives us into a freakish regime domestically, they are weakening international ties so that Turkey will be locked into its epic domestic agenda. They hope to achieve victory through this process and have been preparing these moves for a long time. However, when they enacted these events one after another over the past few months, it attracted a large amount of attention from abroad as well.
Nowadays, Berlin tops the list of capital cities that closely monitor developments in Turkey. Germany, which took over the presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six months on July 1, is making a special effort so that the Turkey hand-grenade is not dropped in its lap. Due to the incompetence of other European leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the last act of her career, was left with the mission of saving the old continent. Her personal intervention has slightly postponed possible military tension in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is actually the latest example of Germany's long-evident “cool” strategy for Turkey.
Since world history includes many political zigzags by leaders, we are not a bit surprised at where Merkel stands now. Before the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came to power in 2005, as their leader, Merkel was exclaiming that Turkey could not become a full member of the EU in rallies. Today, her determination not to alter Turkey’s status of “candidate country negotiating for membership” is eye-watering.
At the heart of the strategy of the Germans is the fact that Turkey’s EU accession talks have been de facto suspended since 2018 anyway. Thus, Merkel’s Germany has not all of a sudden come to its senses. They are just conducting shrewd diplomacy — that’s about it. While it is crystal clear that accession talks are not going anywhere with this state of affairs, they are aware that declaring Turkey’s candidate status as officially over would cause pandemonium. Instead of granting a trump card to President Erdoğan that he can exploit in order to extend his own political life, the German government is acting with the knowledge that pretending as if Turkey will (maybe) become a member one day has no cost at all for them.
Moreover, Merkel is concerned that it would create just the opposite of the desired effect to enact the sanctions the EU Council adopted but did not impose last year in response to Turkey’s drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Instead of fighting against the fact that the influence of the EU on Erdoğan’s Turkey has very much weakened, Merkel is now opting for a strategy in harmony with this new normal. This is the reason why Germany now seems as if it has more empathy toward Turkey as compared to the past. This is because Germans have recognized the futility of spending energy clashing with the leader of a country who has completely changed national policies into tactics that keep him in power.
Another indicator of Germany’s total abandonment of hope in Erdoğan and his government is their quest to strengthen bilateral relations with local governments. The German government is working on organizing a local governance conference in Istanbul at the end of the year. The conference, which will basically be a twinning exercise for Istanbul and Berlin, can be seen as a signal that the German government is opting for a new diplomacy with Turkey in which relations are conducted one-to-one on the local level. There is no need to say who will host this conference in Turkey!