Rarely has the outcome of elections in Germany been as uncertain as it is today. As for pollsters, the country could face tough coalition negotiations after Sunday’s vote. In the latter, foreign policy issues will not be the dominant concern, but they will play an important role. Recent events in and around Afghanistan have shown how volatile the context is and how – from day to day – unforeseen issues dominate the debates. In this context, Berlin’s future policy towards Ankara, especially refugee issues, will be one of the topics on which future coalition partners will have to agree.
Party electoral manifestos are an important source of analysis of the views of political actors. All the major parties are more or less referring to Turkey and the question of how Germany should treat the country. During Angela Merkel’s 16-year rule, relations between Germany and Turkey have seen their ups and downs – with more lows than highs. The refugee crisis of 2015 can be described as a watershed moment for domestic politics in Berlin and also for relations between Berlin and Ankara. Since then, Berlin has underlined the crucial importance of good relations with Turkey: “We want as strong cooperation as possible between the European Union and Turkey as well as close strategic cooperation in foreign and security matters”, declared the Christian Democracy (CDU). wrote in their manifesto for the 2017 elections. At the same time, this appreciation has limits: “We reject full membership of Turkey [in the EU]. “This year’s manifesto conveys more or less the same message, while – on the crucial issue of EU membership – the wording has been adjusted, negatively: ‘There will be no membership to the EU for Turkey with us, “says the CDU. As an alternative, the party suggests a” close partnership. “Moreover, this formulation is weaker – and less engaging – than Merkel’s previous speech on” partnership privileged ”.
Especially since it is the party of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and since recent polls show an increase in voter preferences, the programmatic positions of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Turkey deserve special attention. In its manifesto, the party treats Turkey in three sentences: “We are watching with concern the evolution of the Turkish government’s domestic and foreign policy. Turkey must respect the principles of the rule of law, democracy and international law. There is a very urgent need to intensify the dialogue between the EU and Turkey to tackle these issues critically. Contrary to their 2017 manifesto, the German Social Democrats avoid any reference to Turkey’s accession negotiations with Brussels.
It is quite possible that a future government in Berlin will bring together three political parties in a coalition instead of two as is the case today. The Free Democrats (FDP) are a possible candidate for ministerial posts. In this year’s election manifesto, German liberals – as in 2017 – call for an end to membership negotiations: “A Turkey authoritatively ruled by President Erdoğan cannot be a candidate for membership,” the party says. . At the same time, the liberals are looking to the future: “There will be a Turkey after Erdoğan” and Berlin should prepare for this eventuality by stepping up cooperation, especially with Turkish civil society. The chances of Die Linke joining a government are considered slim. In its manifesto, the left-wing party calls for the cancellation of the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee agreement and the end of the export of all military weapons from Germany to Turkey. It is important to note that these are two points with which the German Green Party agrees. “The EU-Turkey deal undermines international asylum law and must be terminated,” says its manifesto.
While all major political parties agree in criticizing the Turkish government’s dominant domestic and foreign policy and rejecting what they call growing tendencies towards authoritarianism, differences exist as to how Berlin should react. Perhaps the most important indicator is Turkey’s future relationship with the EU. While the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD) see no place for Turkey in the The European Union, the other parties are less virulent, even elusive in this regard. The most substantial changes in German policies towards Turkey should be expected if the Greens – let alone Die Linke – are given the mandate to play a decisive role in German foreign affairs.
(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced with permission.)