Turkish government steps up attempt to ease economic row with Germany
BERLIN / DENİZLİTurkish economy officials have accelerated efforts to tone down a recent row with Germany, vowing that German investments in Turkey were safe and citing a “communication mistake” for reports about an anti-terror probe against hundreds German companies in the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek has sought to assure German companies that their investments in Turkey are safe and their businesses will not be affected by recent political disagreements between Ankara and Berlin.
In an interview with weekly magazine Der Spiegel published on July 29, Şimşek said Turkey had “left behind a difficult period” after the defeated coup attempt last year, while noting that the Turkish economy was performing well at the moment.
“I can assure the business community that Turkey remains an open, liberal and investment-friendly country,” he added.
Şimşek stressed that no German firms were being probed by Turkish investigators, amid ongoing investigations into the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), believed to have organized last year’s attempted military takeover.
“When I saw reports in the media about a list of companies, I immediately called the interior and justice ministers,” he said, referring to German media reports last week that hundreds of German companies were being investigated by Turkish authorities on suspicion of “supporting a terror organization. “
“Both ministers assured me that there has been no investigation against a single German company on suspicion of terrorism financing,” Şimşek said.
He added that the Turkish authorities had requested relevant information from all countries via Interpol, as part of their investigation into the international business ties of local firms owned by people linked to FETÖ.
He said foreign companies were not the focus of the anti-terrorism investigation and this information request aimed to assist the probe focused on the economic activities of the terrorist group.
“In the list there were 9,800 companies, not only from Germany but from more than 50 countries. There is no investigation against any of these foreign companies. Nevertheless, we have decided to withdraw this list in order to prevent another misunderstanding,” Şimşek said.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said the reports were the result of an “obvious misunderstanding” and a “communication mistake.”
Speaking at a meeting late on July 28 in his hometown Denizli, Zeybekci told reporters that it was a “worldwide request” and did not only target German firms.
“A mistake was made in communicating a worldwide request. The required corrections were immediately made to solve this problem. Such a mistake will never be the case again,” he said.
Officials also voiced Turkey’s willingness to “overcome political disagreements between Germany through dialogue,” stressing that current tensions were neither in the interest of Ankara nor Berlin.
“We Turks wanted to see more solidarity from Germany in the fight against terrorism,” Şimşek said, referring to Ankara’s frustration over the activities of FETÖ and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Germany.
“But German-Turkish relations will pass this stress test,” he added.
Zeybekci said the Turkish government disagreed with some of what the German foreign and economy ministers had said.
“What is never expected to be faced by any company in Germany is similarly unexpected for businesses in Turkey. Turkey has been integrated with the Customs Union and the European Union in legal terms,” he said, noting that all foreign investments in Turkey are treated like Turkish companies.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also sought to assure German companies in Turkey that Ankara would not allow tension between Ankara and Berlin to harm their interests in the country.
“It is very important to us that you are not a part of this tension and do not suffer any damage from the events,” Yıldırım said on July 27 at a meeting with senior representatives of leading German companies in Turkey.
“The Turkish government is not in a positon to escalate tension with Germany,” he added.
“I am very clear that we do not consider you German companies. We see you as the companies of this country,” Yıldırım stated.