‘Turkey’s changing image has been hit by setbacks,’ German think tank head says

‘Turkey’s changing image has been hit by setbacks,’ German think tank head says

MUNICH – Hürriyet Daily News
‘Turkey’s changing image has been hit by setbacks,’ German think tank head says

A goverment headed by Angela Merkel will mean political continuity even if she leads a coalition with the Social Democrats, says Professor Werner Weidenfeld, talking in his office in Munich. DAILY NEWS photo

Had it not been for setbacks like the Gezi events, Turkey’s change in image would have been considered as dramatic according to the head of a German think tank. Enlargement continues on a quiet and routine way and should remain so; as there is reluctance toward increasing the number of members, said Professor Werner Weidenfeld, who worked as an advisor to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. “Privileged partnership” was the solution that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s procured as a soft fix to Turkey’s failure in its accession attempts. The proposal offered angers neither those supporting Turkey’s membership nor those who are against it, according to Weidenfeld, director of the Center for Applied Policy Research in Munich, the capital of Bavaria (host to Christian Democrats junior partner, Christian Social Union CSU).

What will having Angela Merkel at Germany’s helm for another term mean for the international community?

It will mean political continuity; especially in international politics. Her success has a reason. You can also see in public opinion polls that her international crisis management is the number one source one of her popularity. She will go on in this kind of style. There is no real, deep controversy with the coalition partners. There will be no real big surprise. There will be a modest sensitive leadership.

How come you predict continuity despite the fact that there might be a grand coalition with the Social Democrats?

Yes, I predict continuity even in domestic affairs. You have to keep in mind that the background to Angela Merkel’s thought process is to a certain degree social democratic spirit.

What makes you say that?

Because of her approach. If you observe her in political developments until now there was no real issue where we would say: this is unbelievable, you can’t do that, or that is beyond any social harmony in Germa ny. The liberals were not her natural allies. I am not talking about the Christian Democrats, that’s something different. But Merkel’s personal approach is largely consensus-oriented. We call it “asymmetric demobilization, “which means do nothing that could mobilize the others.

So you think her approach has been applied to formation of foreign policy well – could you elaborate?

She did noting which was deeply controversial regarding foreign policy. Leaving aside a small group: the Left; she received all the support of others in the Parliament, even the Greens voted in favor of her decisions.

Avoiding being controversial is that necessarily a good attribute? She is criticized for not being an active Europeanist.

Her talent is situation-oriented intensive crisis management, but she has no strategic vision – that is not something she is talented at. But she has been successful until now however, she is not developing a big picture for the future, like [former Christian Democrat chancellors Konrad] Adenauer or [Helmut] Kohl did in Germany. Big-picture thinking is not her world. But she works hard. When I asked top participants of summits for what they thought were the reasons behind her success, they told me she is always the best prepared at the meetings.

But having Merkel as a leader of Germany , will it be good for Europe’s future ?

This is the European reality of today. I am a political scientist, I can always have dreams etc. But it is a European reality. But if you would ask me to name the biggest mistake that she has made in the past seven or eight years, I’d say: nothing.

Then what is your prediction for the future of EU?

The EU will come out stronger from the crisis. It is in an intensive learning process . For instance, you realize the EU has no right to collect its own data, only member states are collecting; whether these are correct or not once can’t be sure. Only now will the EU will collect its own data. Member states are asked to provide their budgetary data much earlier etc. Additional action is coming from our chancellor. She is pushing the formation of treaty partnerships between the EU and single member states, saying let’s put together a treaty when you are running into trouble - you can get European money, but only if you follow the program in which we define what you will do for you. This is the next topic. Today it is controversial but in three years it will be a reality. The next big issue will be cultural factors - what about the legitimacy of these decisions?; the other - questions surrounding transparency. Regarding the EU’s executive structure - what about leadership in this power machine; will it be the president of European Council or the president of European Parliament? Who is really the leader in this Europe? This has to be clarified. We will be confronted with several challenges.

So you are saying the EU will become more federal but EU citizens will be there will be more questioning by EU citizens?

I won’t use your words but, when you observe European history, you will notice your comment was also made by some political leaders; today people are more reluctant concerning such statements. But when you analyze the details in the last 20 years there has been a big shift from member states toward the European Union. I would argue you would integrate those topics where you see it is needed.

Where do you see enlargement and Turkey heading?

Enlargement is heading in a direction that is routine and quite normal. Nobody dare say enlargement – people hesitate to do so. The EU started with 6 member states now it is 28. People are reluctant. You will not find the overwhelming majority to say no but they are reluctant. So the best way is to do it with routine procedures. The next chapter with Turkey will be opened soon.

Do you think that Turkish membership is an asset or a liability for EU.

I don’t know. The question mark is the Turkish question and it is a strange one; Turkey is the only country that received an association treaty with the prospect of membership ; this was unique. From then on you had decades where sometimes only a few steps forward would be made and then nothing - it would stop; sometimes it would collapse. It is not panning that quickly but it is still going on. The question mark is this: I would have to deal with it in a different way if I were an authority on the issue both in Europe and Turkey. Both sides are making mistakes concerning the normal procedure of membership. On the European side they should have been by far more careful and sensitive in dealing with Turkey; there should have been a more prestigious road that was gone down just like our interactions with Moscow.

Turkey is a very influential power in this region, a region where Europe needs such a partnership. Turkey would have become far friendlier if Europe had talked differently to them.

So the process of becoming a member or not would not have become such an issue.

Oh the Turkish side I have the impression that Turkish government is not constantly thinking of their decision about accession to European Union.
How do you think Merkel treated relations with Turkey?

Quite good. “Privileged partnership” for example. When you say that you don’t attack somebody who is in favor or somebody who is against - it is a soft solution.

Don’t you think there has been a change in the Turkey’s image in Germany?

It would have been more dramatic way if there had not been have setbacks. Look at the symbolism of the pictures of how the protests were dealt with in İstanbul. Turkish people havechanged; but the system has not done so completely. For as long as one doesn’t have a real comprehensive strategy concerning becoming a member you will always this ups and downs.

Who is Werner Weidenfeld?

Prof. Dr. Werner Weidenfeld is director of the Center for Applied Policy Research (C.A.P.) at Ludwig Maximilans University, Munich.

From 1975 to 1995 he was professor of political science at Mainz University, from 1986 to 1988 he was professeur associé at the Sorbonne in Paris, and from 1995-2013 he held the Chair of Political Systems and European Integration at the same university. Between 1987 and 1999 he worked for the German government as coordinator for German-American cooperation.

Since 2000 he has been a permanent guest professor at Remnin University Beijing, and he was a guest professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2013.

In addition, he has published and edits numerous books and compendiums, such as the Yearbook of European Integration, and holds several memberships of boards. He is a member of honor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, and is an associated member of the Club of Rome.