It was perhaps her strongest reaction to Turkey to date. “We will not allow the victims of the Nazis to be trivialized,” Angela Merkel told the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday before heading off to Brussels to join other European leaders for an E.U. summit.
The German chancellor called for a stop to Nazi comparisons by Turkish government members, calling them “sad and depressing” and “so out of place as to be unworthy of serious comment.”
But Ms. Merkel also added Germany must not allow Turkey to grow further apart: “As difficult as everything is at the moment, as unacceptable as some things are, it can’t be in our security and geopolitical interest that Turkey, a NATO partner after all, grows even more distant from us,” she said.
Turkey was outraged over the weekend after two towns barred cabinet members from addressing expat voters, citing concerns over security. The cancellations by local officials prompted the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday to compare the actions to those of Nazi officials. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said Germany was “totally repressive” in its moves to suppress pro-Erdogan events, comparing them to “those of the Nazi era.”
Ms. Merkel’s chancellory criticized Mr. Erdogan’s Nazi comparison on Monday, saying it only played down the atrocities committed by the National Socialist regime.
Mr. Erdogan’s government and his ruling AKP party are campaigning for a constitutional reform that will considerably strengthen the powers of the Turkish president. Critics fear the reform, if successful, might usher in an autocratic regime.
Daniel Tost is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: tost@