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MURAT YETKİN > Angela Merkel knows about Turkey's needs

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German newspaper Bild am Sonntag published a poll on Sunday, hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane touched down in Turkey’s Syrian border city of Gaziantep. She then travelled to the neighboring city of Kahramanmaraş to inspect the NATO-owned Patriot missile batteries stationed there and operated by German soldiers.

Together with ones from the United States and Holland, the German batteries send a clear message to not only Syria and its ally Iran, but to whomever else it may concern that the Western alliance is standing by its member Turkey against possible military attacks. NATO’s popularity among Turkish people increased slightly in 2012 to reach 66 percent, according to a recent poll carried out by Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

The poll in Bild, on the other hand, showed that six out of 10 Germans asked were against Turkish entry to the European Union. That result is in line with the same Kadir Has University poll that said only one of every three Turks believed the EU would take Turkey in. Previous polls showed it to be two thirds the other way around. As Germany, under Merkel’s rule, wants to keep Turkey out, more Turks lose their enthusiasm to get in. It has repercussions in the field of democratization, since the EU loses its political leverage on Ankara as the gap in between them grows.

But that doesn’t seem to have an influence over Merkel’s views on Turkey. In a statement she made right before leaving for Turkey she underlined once again that, she preferred membership negotiations with Turkey to stay an “open ended” process. Merkel precisely knows that what Turkey needs is not another chapter to be opened in negotiations and asked for a what-is-in-Turkey-for kind of readmission agreement in return. She knows that what Turkey-EU relations need is a total reset and perhaps that is why she wants to cool down the process by buying out more time.

Germany hosts nearly 4 million people with origins in Turkey, nearly 5 percent of its population and all of their problems originated from Turkey, too. In that sense it is interesting to observe that Merkel’s visit takes place at a time when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has been taking some important steps to find a political solution to Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem through dialogue. Germany is one of main operating bases of militants of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and Erdoğan has been complaining that the counterterrorism support received from Berlin has not been enough.

Despite problems, both Merkel and Erdoğan want to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two nations. An impressive group of investors escorted Merkel during her Turkey visit. An enhanced cooperation between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines is on the table and Erdoğan wants Merkel to use her influence to convince Volkswagen to add Turkey to its production bases, like a number of big auto manufacturers already here have done.

Business is business, but when it comes to politics, EU issues still dominate the agenda.

February/25/2013

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