The Bundestag decision is about German politics
Germany is Turkey’s number one trading partner, while Turkey is among Germany’s top 10 trading partners. So we are important to each other. There are many German companies here, they are well integrated into our market and of course there are millions of Turks in Germany, with many entrepreneurs and corporate warriors among them.
The migration crisis created a new channel of close cooperation between our two countries. Turkey has discovered a strategic ally in Germany. The new EU engagement with Turkey started thanks to the strong support from our German partners. So Germany is very important to Turkey on the diplomatic front as well. Yet, this week, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, passed a resolution calling the relocation of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 under close German supervision genocide.
It is not up to politicians to set the historical record. I know. We all know that. Yet many parliaments in Europe have passed such political resolutions and the Bundestag is merely the latest one. Why now?
All politics is local, as they say. So the Bundestag’s decision is first and foremost about German politics. It is not about doing justice to the sufferings Ottoman Armenians back in 1915, if you ask me. If that was the objective, it could have happened earlier, because Germany hardly changed its mind about historical events since the last time the issue came up. No, this resolution was about pushing back against Turkey. German politicians saw that there was popular sentiment against German Chancellor Angela Merkel since she worked with Turkey on the migrant deal and seized the opportunity for a quick political win. It was about hurting the feelings of the citizens of Turkey today, and telling German voters, “We don’t bow to those savages; we’ll tell them what’s what.” If German elections were not just 18 months away, we may have not have had this resolution.
But let me go a bit further. As all politics is not only local, it is also utterly and unashamedly personal. The members of the bundestag doubtless took pleasure in going up against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The man hurt their pride when he bent Europe to his will, so they are now returning the favor. That is why there was only one representative in the Bundestag who was able to rise above the childishness of it all and voted against the motion. Just one.
But does that leave us even now? I am not sure. The “all politics is personal” motto could easily lead us to get out of control and into the turbulent territory of kindergarten politics. Both sides need to exercise restraint. The cooperation between our countries is simply too important to falter on something so nakedly emotional. The migration challenge is one big item looming on our common agenda. Turkey and Germany cannot overcome it without each other. Turkey just cannot keep up its growth rate even at its current lousy levels with a bank loan to deposit ratio of 125 percent without stronger EU engagement, let alone look after 3 million refugees on its own. Germany and the EU cannot find a sustainable solution to the flow of refugees without stronger Turkish involvement. Politicians on both sides need to grow up and do what is required for the benefit of all.