Tensions in the Mediterranean

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Tensions in the Mediterranean; The Merkel government has been trying to re-establish dialogue between Ankara and several countries of the European Union since the end of August, when numerous military and diplomatic tensions have arisen this summer. But this choice to play the mediator instead of fully supporting its European partners raises questions.

During the recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, voices were raised in France to criticize the government of Angela Merkel for calling for dialogue with Turkey, as opposed to Paris which was showing its muscles at the same time.
Berlin has offered to play the role of mediator to ease tensions with a partner important to its economy and for its ability to avert a further surge in immigration to Europe.
What is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Greece and Cyprus are at the forefront of Turkey, which is saying the correct to use hydrocarbon deposits in a very maritime area that Athens considers to be under its sovereignty. In recent weeks, these countries have shown their muscles through martial declarations, military maneuvers and shipments to areas.
Facing Turkey, France has clearly shown its support for Greece by deploying warships and fighter jets within the region, an initiative strongly denounced by Turkish President Erdogan, already very upset against Paris on the Libyan question.

Tensions in the Mediterranean

What was Berlin’s reaction?

Unlike France, which immediately showed diplomatic and military support for Greece and Cyprus, Germany remained in the background. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Greeks and Turks for dialogue during his official visits to Athens and Ankara at the end of August. During her trip to Turkey, Heiko Maas called for a sincere and direct dialogue between Turkey and Greece and offered Germany’s support for any attempt at mediation.
As part of its rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Berlin has also put the Turkish question on the agenda of the European Council on 24-25 September. France is determined to defend the interests of the European Union and express our solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Turkey must renounce unilateral actions, declared the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, on August 28, for whom a gesture of calm by the Turkish clan is a basic condition to allow a dialogue to take place. In the absence of progress, Josep Borrell warns that the EU could draw up a list of new restrictive measures.

Why does Germany seem to be in retreat?

For Sylvain Maillard, director of the Jacques-Delors – Notre Europe Institute, Germany indeed seems more assertive on other issues, such as Russia and China. Part of the reason, he says, is his role as a rotating presidency that forces Berlin to speak for the European Union and that the German government needs to synthesize in the role of good offices. A position that could change with the next summit where the Europeans could take a clear line and take sanctions against Ankara. But if Berlin is not necessarily comfortable on this issue, which is treats for the moment as if it were a problem between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand with their Turkish neighbour on the other. , this can also be explained by the presence of a strong Turkish community across the Rhine. Angela Merkel’s government certainly doesn’t want to blow too much on the embers so as not to have a problem on German territory afterwards, explains Sylvain Maillard. The director of the Jacques-Delors Institute also recalls Turkey’s special status vis-à-vis the European Union. In addition to being a candidate for membership (even if this is postponed indefinitely), the country could choose as a retaliatory measure to reopen its borders to refugees, especially Syrians, by denouncing the agreement reached in 2016 with the European Union. According to Sylvain Maillard, Germany would then be one of the preferred destinations for them, due to the large number of refugees hosted across the Rhine at the time of the 2015 migration crisis.

What weight does Turkey represent in Germany?

The number of Turks in Germany is very important since the convention on the recruitment of labor signed on October 30, 1961 in Bad Godesberg during the Wirtschaftswunder. The Turkish population across the Rhine is estimated at around four million people and while it is considered that there are over one million people of German origin in Turkey. This explains why questions related to Turkey often take an important place in the debate. Thus, during the German parliamentary elections in September 2017, Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked people of Turkish origin not to vote, which had deeply divided the community.
After the refugee crisis in 2015, Angela Merkel negotiated directly with Erdogan in 2016, bypassing her European partners so that Turkey would prevent new Syrian refugees from coming to Europe.
Diplomatic relations between Germany and Turkey are therefore complicated but regular. The economic weight also explains why Berlin always seeks to be in dialogue with its Turkish partner. In 2018, Turkey’s exports to Germany were worth 13.5 billion euros while German imports were worth more than 17 billion euros.

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