Relations with Turkey

"The EU-Turkey Agreement will stay in place," says Peter Altmaier

In the wake of the attempted military coup in Turkey, Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery, sees no sign that the EU-Turkey Agreement could be called into question. "Everything is currently being done as laid out in the agreement," he said in a newspaper interview.

"I am convinced that the agreement will remain in place," said Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery, in an interview with the newspaper Berliner Zeitung on 5 August. "It is not only in the interests of Germany and Europe, but also in the interests of Turkey, which has taken in more refugees than any other European country."

For the intended visa liberalisation, Turkey must meet the clearly defined preconditions, including provisions relating to the country’s anti-terrorism laws. "The Turkish government is perfectly well aware of that," said Peter Altmaier.

German government stands by agreement

Earlier, the German government had made it quite clear that it stands by the EU’s agreement with Turkey on refugees. "The EU and the German government will uphold the agreement with Turkey," said deputy government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer at the government press conference in Berlin on 3 August.

Ulrike Demmer said, quoting Chancellor Angela Merkel at her summer press conference, that there is common ground with Turkey and other factors which divide Turkey and the EU. Overall cooperation within the framework of the EU-Turkey Agreement is very successful, said the deputy government spokesperson. "Together we have now managed to stem illegal migration across the Aegean Sea." Far fewer lives have been lost there through drowning since the agreement was put in place.

Turkey wants to see swift visa liberalisation

Ulrike Demmer stressed once again that this is not a bilateral agreement between Germany and Turkey, but an agreement between the EU and Turkey. The European Commission will have to conduct the talks with Turkey on the question of visa liberalisation, and it will be up to the Commission to decide whether or not all criteria have been met.

The EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016 envisaged an accelerated process, with visa restrictions on Turkish citizens lifted by June 2016. For this, however, Turkey is required to meet all preconditions. Work with Turkey is progressing well, she reported, but not all conditions have yet been met. The Turkish government has, however, recently demanded a precise date for the lifting of visa restrictions.

Conditions must be met, says Frank-Walter Steinmeier

In an interview with the newspaper Rheinische Post on 2 August, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Turkey has undertaken to meet specific conditions in order to attain visa liberalisation. "These conditions have not yet been met, and Turkey still has some work ahead of it." Frank-Walter Steinmeier also pointed out, "It is in the interests of both the EU and Turkey to achieve a joint solution on this matter."

At her summer press conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that she is following events in Turkey very closely. With a view to the refugee situation in the Aegean Sea she said, "Nobody can stand by and watch when people keep drowning in such a narrow strait between two NATO member states."

Retaining a sense of proportion

The Chancellor also pointed to her telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the failed military coup on 15 July, in which she urged that moderation and proportionality must be respected in a rule-of-law state.

It is natural and right that all rule-of-law instruments be used to bring those behind the military coup to justice, said Angela Merkel. She did, however, point out that a sense of proportion and moderation must "be assured under all circumstances". She expressed her concern at the extremely harsh approach being taken in Turkey.

Remaining in dialogue

Angela Merkel stressed that she is following events in Turkey very closely, not least because of the three million people in Germany who have Turkish roots. In her capacity as Chancellor she is also responsible for people in Germany who have a migrant background, she said.

With respect to terrorism, Turkey is a partner, she said. The country has been exemplary in terms of taking in and caring for refugees. "We are talking about three million refugees in Turkey." It is absolutely right that the EU provide financial support for Turkey in this context. It is important to stay in dialogue with Turkey and to make our concerns clear, said the Chancellor.

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