“The relationship between Turkey and Germany, with its positive and negative sides, will continue,” Merkel told reporters at a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the steps of Dolmabache Palace in Istanbul. . “Everyone knows that the security and independence of our two countries depend on each other.
Erdogan said Turkey “will always remember the good faith and contribution” Merkel made to maintaining ties with Turkey.
“From preventing irregular migration from Syria to sending humanitarian aid to northern Syria, on many subjects, Merkel has not refrained from taking the initiative and taking responsibility” , Erdogan said.
Merkel’s party narrowly lost elections in Germany last month, and a new government will be made up of a coalition that will likely be more center-left and likely more critical of Ankara than before.
Merkel, who ruled Germany for 16 years, and Erdogan, who ruled Turkey for 19 years, are perhaps the most seasoned political leaders in the region. At times, Merkel has pushed to maintain ties with Turkey despite pressure at home on controversial issues such as migration and human rights.
On Saturday, the two men briefly recognized the different styles of government the two countries have adopted.
“Sixteen years is not short, and I’ve been in power for over 19 years,” Erdogan said when asked to compare Merkel’s political sense.
“We have discussed and worked with many world leaders, and the Chancellor has managed to administer Germany,” Erdogan said. “We will monitor the development of our relations, but without a coalition [in Germany] they could have been in a better place. It is not easy to work with a coalition government.
In 2018, Turkey began moving to a presidential system of government, giving more power to Erdogan’s office in what he called an effort to eliminate an unstable parliamentary system that was too sensitive to party politics. and the need for coalitions.
Markel scoffed at Erdogan’s suggestion to make such a change in Germany, saying she focused on maintaining good relations with Turkey.
A large diaspora
Ankara and Berlin have particularly close ties in part because of the presence of millions of Turkish immigrants in Germany. This year marks the 60th anniversary of a historic labor agreement that brought Turkish workers to Germany.
“There are almost four million people of Turkish descent in Germany,” Merkel said. “They are doctors, scientists, academics and their parents were the first immigrants. “
Turkish political parties, including Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, regularly campaign among the Turkish diaspora in Germany.
But the relationship also meant that developments in Turkey, especially regarding Erdogan, are being closely followed in Germany, and that human rights issues in Turkey -om press freedom to the rights of Kurdish minorities to the secular nature of the state – were discussed in Germany. maybe more than in any other European country.
German TV comedians have been investigated for “insulting” Erdogan over the years, and German journalists have faced criminal charges in Turkey for their work.
Turkey, which has long aspired to become a full member of the European Union, currently faces censorship and possible suspension of its Council of Europe membership due to its human rights record. man in his country.
Asked about these human rights concerns, Merkel responded with the diplomatic impetus that came with her tenure, saying there was still work to be done.
“Sixteen years was not enough to solve these problems, but we have accomplished a lot,” said Merkel. “We have to talk about these problems and we try to find solutions. Sometimes we have very different ideas, but deep down I can say that when we talk we get the best results. “
“Cooperation on migration must continue”
In recent years, however, the dialogue between the two countries has been largely devoted to the issue of refugees and migrants, millions of whom have passed through Turkey, heading west in an attempt to settle in the EU. .
Turkey has repeatedly stated that it would like European governments to do more to stem the flow of migrants. In 2016, Merkel pushed through an agreement between the EU and Turkey that would provide 6 billion euros (roughly $ 7 billion) in return for Turkey hosting this wave of refugees and migrants.
Over the years, Erdogan complained that funding had not reached Turkey and at times threatened to completely remove barriers to migration to the EU.
Turkey’s concerns over migration have come to the fore again in recent weeks amid fears of a new wave of Afghans fleeing instability in their country.
Merkel said that despite this tension, she hoped that the EU’s support for Turkey would continue and that more of the promised funding would reach Ankara.
“Turkey has signed many projects on the issue of migration and we have cooperated against human trafficking,” she said. “Together with the UN, we have already worked and will work to prevent a new humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. “