Turkey is Germany’s strategic partner, German president says
AHMET KÜLAHÇI - BERLIN
Turkey and Germany have a unique relationship thanks to the contributions of Turkish migrants since the 1960s, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said, reiterating that Turkey is a strategic partner of Germany in terms of its political weight.
“The unique bond between us and Turkey is not only due to our human relations. Turkey is a strategically important partner of Germany in terms of its size, geographical position and political weight,” Steinmeier told daily Hürriyet in an exclusive interview on the 60th anniversary of the Turkey-Germany Labor Recruitment Agreement.
Turkey and Germany are allies at NATO and the EU had decided to launch accession negotiations with Turkey 15 years ago, the president stated. “This path is perhaps much more difficult and complicated than we mutually wish. In the past years, we were concerned about many developments in Turkey. But there is one thing certain: We can never be indifferent to the situation in Turkey.”
Steinmeier underlined that increased cooperation will be to the mutual benefit of the two countries, saying, “For example, on our attitude towards asylum seekers and migrants, or how we respond to recent developments in Afghanistan.”
Today’s Turkey is much more modern and has developed much faster than many Germans perceived, the German president said, urging that growing polarization in some EU countries is also observed in Turkey. “A polarization where those who think differently are increasingly attacked as enemies. This is not good for democracy,” he said.
A unique relationship
The 60th anniversary of the Turkish-German agreement provides a good opportunity to pay tribute to the first-generation workers who have largely contributed to Germany’s development, the president stated.
“These people came because we invited them. Because we need them. We owe them a lot. With their help, our country has increased its economic strength and prosperity, and has turned into a more open and diverse society,” he said.
Turkish workers have determined the course of the ties between the two countries since the 1960s, Steinmeier underlined, stating that this reflects a unique relationship.
Germany, at the beginning, did not focus on the integration of the Turkish workers because they believed that the foreign workers will return to their home countries in two or three years, the president said, admitting this created an important adaptation problem for the foreigners.
“It took a very long time for the politics and the people to realize this: These so-called guest workers were neither guests nor only workers. Today, these people became a part of Germany with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
‘I adore Türeci and Şahin’s success’
On a question about the scientists Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin, who developed an efficient mRNA vaccination against the COVID-19 pandemic, Steinmeier said he admires their success. “The vaccination they have developed continued to save lives in the world. I, of course, feel proud of them. Both are great examples of what has been achieved since the beginning of the Labor Agreement and what opportunities are offered to people in Germany,” he said.
The German president said he was very happy to decorate these two extraordinary scientists with the German Federal Order of Merit.