Relations between Turkey and Germany, already on a steady decline, reached a low point in the aftermath of the arrest of Turkish-born German writer Dogan Akhanli. President Erdogan has referred to Germany’s main political parties as “enemies of Turkey” and urged Turks living in Germany to vote against them in the upcoming elections. German politicians are furious at what they see as Erdogan’s meddling in their elections, and Chancellor Merkel is pressuring the EU to punish Turkey economically.
As both countries step up their rhetoric, what implications do these tensions have for Turkey’s relations with the European Union? How is the strained relationship perceived by members of the business communities and politicians in both camps? What might be a way forward for both countries to get their relationship back on track?
The Middle East Institute’s (MEI) director for Turkish Studies, Gönül Tol, moderated a discussion between journalist Cengiz Çandar and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Michael Meier to examine this increasingly complicated relationship and its impact.
Distinguished visiting scholar, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS); columnist, Al-Monitor
Cengiz Çandar is a Turkish journalist, senior columnist, and a Middle East expert. He is the author of bestseller Mezopotamya Ekspresi- Bir Tarih Yolculugu (Mesopotamia Express- A Journey in History) (2012), which has been translated into various languages, including Kurdish and Arabic. He began his career as journalist in 1976 for the newspaper Vatan after living in the Middle East and Europe due to his opposition to the regime in Turkey following the military intervention in 1971. Being an expert on the Middle East and the Balkans, Çandar worked for the Turkish News Agency and for the leading Turkish newspapers Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet, Sabah, Referans and Güneş as a war correspondent. Currently, he is a senior columnist for Radikal. and a columnist of Al-Monitor. Çandar served as special adviser on foreign policy to Turkish president Turgut Özal between 1991 and 1993. He was the lead on the establishment of relationship between the Turkish Presidency and the Iraqi Kurdish leadership (1991) that led recognition of Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani in Turkey. He was also actively involved in Balkan politics, especially during the ethnic unrest in the Balkans between 1993 and 1995. In 1998, he was among the well-known journalists who have been subjected to an aggressive defamation campaign by the military. Between 1999 and 2000, he did research work on "Turkey of the 21st century" as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.
Director, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Michael Meier is FES Representative to the United States and Canada. Prior to his current assignment, he was FES representative to Turkey for five years. Michael Meier also served as head of the Department for Western Europe and North America at FES headquarters in Berlin. From 1991 to 2003, he was resident representative of FES in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Botswana. Michael Meier is an expert on foreign and security policy in the MENA region, where he focused on Turkey’s role in the region, Turkey’s relations with the European Union and Israel in particular. He also acted as advisor to the coordination group on Turkey in the German Social Democratic Party, and he is the author of numerous articles on current policy trends in Turkey. Michael Meier holds a diploma in African sciences and economy from Leipzig University (Germany), and he attended a postgraduate training program at the German Development Institute (DIE) in Bonn. He is co-author of the book Elections in Africa (OUP, 1999).
Director for Turkish Studies, MEI
Gönül Tol is the founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. After three years of field research in Germany and the Netherlands, she wrote her dissertation on the radicalization of the Turkish Islamist movement Milli Gorus in Western Europe. She was also an adjunct professor at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University. She has taught courses on Islamist movements in Western Europe, Turkey, world politics, and the Middle East. She has written extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, Turkish domestic politics, and foreign policy and the Kurdish issue. She is a frequent media commentator.