Merkel insistent on refugee policy despite vote loss

Merkel insistent on refugee policy despite vote loss

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be persistent, it seems, on her refugee policies despite the reactions. Efforts to advance German-Turkish relations despite the recent tension are also continuing.   

I had the opportunity to attend the convention of Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in Essen last week. Merkel was the only candidate for leadership and she received 89 percent of the vote. While the results were being announced, I noticed that the Turkish deputy sitting next to me was not happy. I asked the reason and this was the reply: “The vote total she obtained at the last convention was 97 percent.” 

I asked the same question to a source very close to Merkel. He said this was not an unexpected outcome. When I asked whether the reason for the vote decline was her refugee policies, he said: “The biggest reason is that; we cannot think of another reason. But we were expecting this; moreover, we were calculating a decline of 10 percent.” He went on, “But this is an inner party vote; in other words, the entire party all together will continue to defend Merkel’s policy.” 

Whether this outcome will affect Merkel’s policies was answered precisely. He said the policy Merkel formed in 2015 was a well-calculated one and regardless of any outcome, this policy will be maintained because the best way for Germany was this, they believed. 

When reminded that Turkey’s cancellation of the refugee deal was in question and whether they had a Plan B, the same source said, “There is a deal and it is working. Of course, one would think about what would happen if it didn’t. But we are not considering another plan. The plan is there; the deal will be carried out.” 

I observed this stance among other deputies and party administrators of the CDU who are involved in foreign policy, some of whom participate in negotiations. Of course, in almost all of them, there was a reaction against the statements coming from Turkey about the possibility of the cancellation of the deal. However, they reiterated that there was an agreement and that it should continue. Moreover, one official said, “We did not sign this agreement with President Erdoğan; we signed it with the state of Turkey.”

Domestic tool  

I talked to six or seven officials that day at the CDU convention. What I have seen is that even though Germany is angry at Turkey’s attitude, they have opted to maintain the development of relations with Turkey not only in terms of the refugee deal but in numerous other areas as well. They refer to the presence of 3 million Turks in Germany, NATO cooperation, common interests in the region and say “Germany and Turkey have to work together.” 

They complain about politicians in Turkey using the relations with Germany as a domestic policy tool. They see it as a risk in terms of their domestic peace that this stance is also reflected on demonstrations in Germany. One official said they could understand to a certain extent such statements used for domestic policy purposes, but in such a case, there should be background messages along the lines of “don’t mind the statements, our relations remain the same” but, as a matter of fact, there are none.