Germany braces for Erdoğan
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be in Germany over the weekend, trying to rally support for his presidential bid from a large crowd of Turks due to assemble in Cologne.
German politicians have been quoted in the press in recent days arguing that Erdoğan should not be allowed to move his election campaign battles to Germany and have referred to his planned rally as a misuse of the right to hospitality.
This will not be the first time that Erdoğan has held rallies in Germany, of course. He has also uttered remarks to Turks there in the past which angered German politicians, for example, when he called on Turks in Germany to resist assimilation at a time when the country was heatedly debating problems regarding foreign migrants who have failed to integrate into German society.
But Erdoğan is going to Germany with much more negative baggage this time than he did before. He is seen in that country as a politician with autocratic tendencies who does not respect the rights of those who did not vote for him, and who violates basic democratic principles such as freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
On top of all that, he angered Germans recently when he responded almost insultingly to German President Joachim Gauck for criticizing the state of democracy in Turkey during an address to students in Ankara’s Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ).
Erdoğan said they would not tolerate such interference in Turkey’s domestic affairs, even though it is legitimate for EU politicians to criticize not just other member states but also EU candidate countries along these lines.
It will be interesting in light of all this, and at a time when the shadow of negligence in the Soma disaster hangs over his government’s head, as to what Erdoğan will say during his political speech to Turks in Cologne on Saturday.
The German government, while wary of Erdoğan, has nevertheless decided to be politically correct and allow him to hold his rally. It is in this way that it is perhaps even giving a lesson in democracy and tolerance to Erdoğan. One also wonders whether the Turkish government would have been as tolerant if the roles were reversed.
It is therefore to the German government’s credit that it is allowing Erdoğan to do this, whatever the angry reactions may be from individual German politicians. But Berlin is aware that what Erdoğan says could have a negative effect on bilateral ties if his words stir anger and controversy in Germany.
There are also Turks in Germany who are said to be preparing to organize protest rallies against Erdoğan, and who will also be listening carefully to what he says.
It must be recalled that this is also the first anniversary of the Gezi Park protests which reverberated across the world as well as in Germany.
Because of all of this, the Turkish Embassy in Berlin, and Turkish consulates across Germany, are reportedly working closely with the German authorities to ensure that all goes well.
Erdoğan is not known to mince his words when it comes to those he sees as his political rivals and enemies. He rarely restrains himself when hurling out adjectives while spitting out scornful invective. The circumstances this time, however, place a great responsibility on him to be diplomatic, rather than rash, and unifying, rather than divisive.
This will of course require extra effort on Erdogan’s part. The hope is that he will appreciate this and refrain from saying things that will not only put him, but Turkey as well, in a bad light abroad – whatever blind admiration he may get from his supporters in Cologne.