Turkey’s rocky relationship with Germany has been on a rollercoaster of ups and downs in recent years, most recently amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign to pass a referendum that will expand his powers.
In the lead up to the referendum – which narrowly passed on April 16th – Turkish officials were blocked from speaking at ‘yes’ campaign rallies in various German cities, with local authorities citing logistical and security reasons. The German federal government insisted that it had “absolutely no influence” in the cancellations, but Erdogan didn’t see it that way.
The Turkish President accused the country of “employing Nazi measures”, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with a threat of banning all campaign events if his taunts persisted.
But now Ankara is singing a different tune.
In an interview with Bild published on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said that now the referendum is over, things can go back to the way they were before – and even made a plea for financial help.
“I think that the time must come to return to normalcy in our relations,” Simsek said.
Simsek added that at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington last week, there had been discussion of helping Turkey to get back on its feet economically.
“Therefore, we need Germany,” he added.
Germany is Turkey’s most important trade partner, with a total trade volume of €37 billion in 2016.
The two countries are also locked into an European Union deal to share responsibility in the refugee crisis, with the EU pledging billions of euros in support in exchange for Turkey preventing more immigrants from crossing the Aegean in its member states.
Simsek’s cry for help was met with scepticism in the Bundestag (German parliament), according to Tagesspiegel.
Green Party Turkish-German politician Özcan Mutlu said that indeed not all bridges have been broken, “but is it a big presumption if Deputy Prime Minister Simsek now acts as if nothing happened”.
Mutlu also mentioned the ongoing anger in Germany over the detainment of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel in Turkey, held on charges related to terrorism after he reported on hacker attacks against Erdogan’s son-in-law, Turkey's energy minister Berat Albayrak.
Yücel’s arrest sparked outrage in Germany, and Merkel has called Turkey’s treatment of the reporter “bitter and disappointing”.
Mutlu added that Ankara must ensure legal security in its country, especially when discussing economic assistance from Germany.
“If German companies are to invest in Turkey, it must be ensured that they are not exposed to state arbitrariness.”
A manager of a Western multinational company, who has also set up business in Turkey, told Tagesspiegel that there has been sinking demand amid growing legal uncertainty. The manager, who did not want to be named, further explained that Turkey could be ousted as a regional business hub for the Middle East and Africa by Gulf States like the United Arab Emirates.
Mutlu also had doubts about Simsek’s influence on Erdogan’s attitude towards Europe.
“There is no sign that Mr. Erdogan is disarming himself verbally.”