Erdogan-Merkel relationship amid the Jan Böhmermann affair

How do you read current President Erdogan-Chancellor Merkel relationship amid the case of Jan Böhmermann, what both sides hope to gain from this relationship? Read few comments.

Kerem Öktem, Professor of Southeast Europe and Modern Turkey, Centre of Southeast European Studies, University of Graz

This is big news in Europe and beyond. Pretty much everywhere it is understood that Chancellor Angela Merkel is caving in to Erdogan’s political blackmail. This reading is indeed not wide off the mark. The EU-Turkey refugee deal is the main reason. Merkel’s political survival is pretty much dependent on this deal, as she needs to prove to her electorate and wider European publics that Europe is in control of its borders. For the deal to survive, relations with Erdogan need to be kept at a working level. On Merkel’s side, this is realpolitik bordering on the cynical. Of course, the whole plan is terribly cynical in the first place, as it curtails refugee rights and violates international law.

Erdogan’s game is plain cynical. He goes for any agreement that will help restore his waning credibility in international politics, even if this obviously not a sustainable strategy. Still, for now, he can sell the deal as a success story to the Turkish public, particularly if the EU really delivers on its promise of visa liberalisation. This is highly unlikely, but if it happens even only for a short period if time, it will drive home the message that Turkey achieved little when it was doing its best in terms of democratisation and legal reform, while it got what it wanted when pushing a hard bargain. For me, this episode -of course together with the racist reactions to the refugees particularly in Slovakia and Hungary- illustrates the lowest point of the idea of European unity and signals an immediate European future that has little to do with the ideal of the founding fathers of the Union, who would look with awe and shock at the lack of a principles stance on Europe.

Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, Associate Professor, Chair, Department of International Relations, Director, Center for International and European Studies (CIES), Kadir has University

The relationship between Merkel and Erdogan is both one of convenience and astute strategic thinking on the part of both. For Merkel, the objective is to keep the European Union together at a time when the refugee crisis is tearing it apart. She wants to find a way to bridge the increasingly divergent positions between its member states including to protect the sanctity of the Schengen regime and ensure a fair share of burden sharing by all EU member states at a time when European publics are increasingly opposed to integrating refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere. The imperfect deal with Turkey/Erdogan shows that she is trying to address the problem by putting the onus on Turkey to bear the brunt of the refugees as they trickle into Europe.

For Erdogan, the purpose of the agreement is to show his public opinion that he has succeeded in securing visa free travel for Turkish citizens as he prepares to launch his campaign for a referendum to change the Constitution to a Presidential system. In this sense, Turkey is trying to meet all the prerequisites for visa liberalization by the end of June so that Erdogan can sell thıs to hıs electorate as a victory as he launches his campaign.

In this context, the German satirist is collateral damage that Merkel has to endure in her balancing act to keep the Union together and herself in charge.

Dimitris TsarouhasGreek Politics Specialist Group, Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Bilkent University

To me the biggest news on this is how the SPD distanced itself from the prosecution, throwing its weight behind the “freedom of speech” approach. The consequences are important for the grand coalition in Germany. Mrs. Merkel sought, yet again, a compromise, messy as this is: allowing for the prosecution to go on but making clear this will not be repeated as she intends to get rid of the relevant article.

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