May 24, 2016
Merkel desperate to salvage her Turkey deal
Frankfurter Allgemeine has an excellent report about Angela Merkel's difficult visit to Turkey. The most important new information is that the German government does not expect the visa liberalisation to happen this year because Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism laws. But it still hopes that Turkey will continue to abide by the agreement on refugees. This hope rests on the assumption that President Tayyip Recep Erdogan will not ultimately behave like a sultan, but will act like a rational politician.
The short talks between Merkel and Erdogan did not get anywhere. The two spoke surrounded by their delegations, with simultaneous translation. There was no room for spontaneity. The article painted a good picture of Merkel's duplicity. She publicly criticised the lifting of immunity of 138 Turkish MPs and the renewed tensions with the Kurds. But, when she later held a meeting with members of Turkey's civil society, she did not invite any of the affected MPs themselves or any of the journalists who are persecuted by Erdogan. She obviously acted to avoid even the slightest confrontation with Erdogan. It is very clear from this article that the only thing Merkel cares about is salvaging her deal. She addresses the human rights situation in Turkey in a perfunctory manner, to the extent that German domestic politics demands of her.
Another point the article made was that Merkel did not talk about a Plan B - at least not in public!
We have long made the observation that politicians who align themselves with Merkel tend to lose their jobs - Faymann is the latest example. The German political landscape is littered with the corpses of former Merkel allies. This is also something that Erdogan explicitly or implicitly understands. We find it hard to see that the Turkey deal can hold up under these circumstances. Erdogan knows that he can damage Europe's most powerful politician. Since he is less desperate about EU membership than Merkel is about this agreement, we presume that he will use the opportunity to damage her ahead of the German elections.