Germany-Turkey: Bitter birthday
3 November 2011
"Bir problem mi var?" Do I have a problem? The question posed in Turkish by Frankfurter Rundschau is an apt reflection of the atmosphere at joint German-Turkish celebrations held on 2 November in Berlin. The event attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the agreement signed on 30 October, 1961, which paved the way for the mass immigration of Turkish workers to support the German economy. After the arrival of 800,000 Turks and the suspension of the agreement in 1973, the subject remained a sensitive one.
In spite of Erdogan’s declaration that "we go well together" delivered in German, and Merkel’s warmly applauded “I am also your Chancellor” addressed to Germany’s three million Turkish immigrants, the two countries remain divided over longstanding issues: the question of dual nationality for immigrants in Germany, demanded by Erdogan, and the obligation to learn German stipulated by Merkel. "Assimilation is a crime against humanity," comparable to anti-Semitism, insisted the Turkish Prime Minister while Angela Merkel remained impassive. The Chancellor also maintained an eloquent silence on the issue of Turkey’s accession to the European Union.