Germany-Turkey ties extremely close and trusting: Envoy
"Our political relations are extremely close at all levels of government and covering also non-governmental organizations," Jurgen Schulz told reporters in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Speaking on the forest fires in southern Turkey that have been burning for the last several days, the ambassador conveyed his "heartfelt condolences" to the victims.
He said Germany feels "very much with the people of Turkey," reminding of the recent catastrophic floods in western Germany and Belgium, which caused the death of over 180 people.
"This was a big catastrophe in our own country. And as we are in the process of dealing with the aftermath of this catastrophe, we feel very much with the people of Turkey who are now in the midst of another catastrophe here in your country. And we wish everybody well," he told reporters.
Underlining that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel "have regular exchanges," Schulz said: "They're on the phone, on video conferences regularly. And they both appreciate to exchange their views."
"They do not always agree. That's part of life. That's pretty natural. But, they do have these regular exchanges and I think this is very, very important for both of our countries," he added.
On next month's general elections in Germany, in which Merkel is not seeking a new term, Schulz said he could not make any predictions. But, he added: "Whoever follow Chancellor Merkel and our Cabinet, I think one thing is sure that these close political ties and contacts (between Turkey and Germany) will continue."
Economic and business ties
Economic and business relations between the two countries are also "extremely close and tight," he added.
He later went on to say that the trade volume between Germany and Turkey last year, stands roughly at €37 billion ($43.8 billion), despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Schulz also praised the "human bridges" between the two countries on the 60th year of the migration of workers from Turkey to Germany, saying that more than 3 million people with Turkish roots are currently living in Germany.
"Today, Turkish people who came to Germany contributed enormously to the economic success story of Germany," he said. "Many of them are also extremely successful as movie directors, artists, doctors, politicians, entrepreneurs, or scientists."
He cited BioNTech, a company founded in Germany by scientists of Turkish background, that developed a successful COVID-19 vaccine, as "the best-known example for this."
Speaking on reports of Islamophobia and assaults on Turks living in Germany, he said German authorities are "very diligent" in going after and punishing perpetrators to prevent further incidents.
But, he also stressed that these reports were "a very small portion of what normal life is." The vast majority of people with Turkish roots have a "very normal life without any conflicts without any problems and they are happy to live in Germany," he added.
On relations between the EU and Turkey, Schulz said Germany wants to see more strategic cooperation between Ankara and Brussels.
"Turkey is of course, not just any other partner of the European Union. Turkey is a very special country. Turkey is an accession candidate for membership in the EU. Turkey is a member of the EU Customs Union. So, we have a very special relationship already. But, from a German point of view, we would like to see this development even going much further," he said.
He said Berlin wanted to see some aims achieved, including updating the 1995 Customs Union, more high-level dialogues, and closer cooperation on migration issues.
"The EU has agreed at the highest level, at the level of heads of state and government in the past year, a balanced approach that offers the possibility, the opportunity of the positive agenda with Turkey," he said, but also shared the bloc's expectations on the road to "more strategic cooperation, which covers de-escalation in the eastern Mediterranean" and "respect for the rule of law for fundamental rights."
"We also would like to see more progress in Cyprus, that continues to be a source of concern for us," he said.
Praising Turkey's hosting of a large amount of refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria, he said the EU decided to provide more additional financial assistance to Turkey for dealing with the issue.
"We have to work together with Turkey on how we best do this," he said.