Thursday, August 04, 2016

Turkey and Germany Face New Diplomatic Spat

Ankara summons Berlin’s deputy ambassador after handling of pro-Erdogan rally in Cologne angers Turkish officials

BERLIN—A diplomatic rift sparked by Germany’s handling of a Turkish demonstration deepened on Monday, the latest sign of worsening relations between Turkey and the European Union since the failed Turkish coup in July.

The government in Ankara summoned a senior German diplomat Monday afternoon to explain why the country’s top court had barred Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from addressing by video a crowd of around 40,000 of his supporters in the German city of Cologne the day before.

Citing the risk of unrest at the rally, German police had decided not to let Mr. Erdogan appear via a live link. German courts upheld the decision over the weekend after protest organizers challenged it, prompting Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik to describe the ruling as “utter backsliding in freedom of speech and democracy.”

The growing tensions between two major players in Europe’s migrant crisis reflect the high stakes for the EU as it struggles to strike a balance between condemning Mr. Erdogan’s postcoup crackdown and maintaining good relations with a critical partner in grappling with terrorism and migration.

Turkish and German politicians have since traded accusations of bias and blackmail via television and social media, displaying the heightened mistrust between the countries over what Mr. Erdogan’s European critics see as autocratic repression in Turkey—and his Turkish supporters see as unfair criticism of their country.

“This is the lowest point I’ve ever seen in German-Turkish relations,” said Burak Copur, a political scientist and scholar of German-Turkish relations at the University of Duisburg-Essen. “And therefore we are also heading towards a clash between the EU and Turkey.”

The stakes are particularly high for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has sought to avoid riling Mr. Erdogan, her ally in Berlin’s efforts to curb the recent inflow of migrants.

“Turkey has been an important and good partner for Germany and Europe for centuries,” Martin Schäfer, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said Monday. “We have had bumpy phases now and again but also phases that were extraordinarily good. Currently, we are in a somewhat bumpy phase.” - More, WSJ


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